The majority of individuals don’t want to talk about the effect hearing loss has on relationships, even though it’s a problem many people deal with. Hearing loss can cause communication barriers that result in misunderstandings and frustration for both partners.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner isn’t it the perfect opportunity to show your love and appreciation for your loved one? A wonderful way to do this is to talk to your loved one about your hearing loss.
Having “the talk”
Studies have found that a person with untreated hearing loss is 2.4 times more likely to develop dementia, and that includes Alzheimer’s disease. When the region of your brain used for hearing becomes less active, it can begin a cascade effect that can impact your entire brain. Doctors refer to this as brain atrophy. You remember how the old saying goes, “use it or lose it”.
Depression rates are almost half in people who have normal hearing compared to people who have hearing loss. Research shows that as a person’s hearing loss progresses, they often become stressed and agitated. The person may start to seclude themselves from family and friends. They are also likely to stop getting involved in the activities they used to enjoy as they sink deeper into a state of sadness.
This, in turn, can lead to relationship stress among mother and son, daughter and father, close friends, spouses, and others in this person’s life. Communication problems need to be handled with patients and compassion.
Your loved one may not be ready to let you know they’re experiencing hearing loss. They might be afraid or embarrassed. Denial may have set in. You may need to do a bit of detective work to determine when it’s time to have the conversation.
Because you can’t hear what your partner or parent hears, you’ll need to rely on external cues, such as:
- Complaining about ringing, humming, static, or other noises that you don’t hear
- Avoiding busy places
- Repeated misunderstandings
- Sudden difficulty with work, hobbies, or school
- Failing to hear alerts, doorbells, and other significant sounds
- Agitation or anxiety in social settings that you haven’t previously observed
- Avoiding conversations
- Watching TV with the volume very high
Watch for these common symptoms and plan on having a heart-to-heart conversation with your loved one.
How to discuss hearing loss
Having this talk might not be easy. A loved one might become defensive and brush it off if they’re in denial. That’s why discussing hearing loss in an appropriate manner is so crucial. The steps will be basically the same but possibly with some minor alterations based on your specific relationship situation.
- Step 1: Tell them that you love them without condition and appreciate your relationship.
- Step 2: The state of their health is important to you. You’ve read through the research. You know that a higher risk of depression and dementia comes along with untreated hearing loss. That’s not what you want for your loved one.
- Step 3: Your own safety and health are also a worry. Your hearing could be damaged by an overly loud TV. Additionally, research shows that increased noise can cause anxiety, which may affect your relationship. Your loved one may not hear you calling for help if you’ve fallen or somebody’s broken into the house. Emotion is a strong way to connect with others. If you can paint an emotional picture of the what-ifs, it will have more impact than merely listing facts.
- Step 4: Make an appointment to get a hearing test together. After you make the decision schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Don’t wait.
- Step 5: Be ready for objections. These could occur anywhere in the process. You know this person. What kind of doubts will they have? Will it be lack of time, or money? Maybe they don’t see that it’s a problem. They may feel that homemade remedies will be just fine. (“Natural hearing loss remedies” are not effective and can even be harmful.)
Be prepared with your responses. You might even practice them in the mirror. They don’t need to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should address your loved one’s worries.
Discussing hearing loss isn’t easy if your significant other doesn’t want to discuss it. Openly discussing the effect of hearing loss on your relationship can help to solidify a plan to deal with any communication challenges and ensure that both partners are heard and understood. By having this talk, you’ll grow closer and get your partner the help they need to live a longer, healthier, more fulfilling life. Growing together – isn’t that what love is all about?