When your hearing starts to go, it’s always a challenge for the person experiencing hearing loss. It can not only interfere with your daily life and make communication that much more difficult, but also lead to a host of other consequences, including strained relationships.
Some people fail to recognize, especially early on, that hearing loss can also affect your relationships. When hearing loss goes untreated, those closest to us are often negatively impacted as communication continues to slip. Friends, family, and significant others all bear the burden of trying to communicate when untreated hearing loss is involved.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the factors surrounding hearing loss and strained relationships.
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It’s easy to take normal communication for granted when you and your partner aren’t experiencing hearing loss. Normal, daily communication in any relationship is vital to maintaining a healthy relationship and sharing your life with someone.
Even small communications that may seem unimportant are essential. As hearing loss develops and communication becomes more difficult, interactions can suffer leading to frustration.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Relationships
The 2010 study In it together: The impact of hearing loss on personal relationshipspublished by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People explored the role hearing loss plays in relationships. In the study, the researchers found that while hearing loss is often evaluated on an individual level, the impacts are felt by anyone who has a close relationship with the person experiencing hearing loss.
They found that partners often had the following reactions:
Partners were frequently the first people to make the person experiencing hearing loss aware of the issue.
Partners also expected the person with hearing loss to act in order to minimize the impacts by accepting their hearing loss and wearing hearing aids.
Partners provided support to the person with hearing loss and would take steps to improve communication.
In addition, partners commonly misunderstood the nature of their hearing loss and were unaware of how background noises and feelings of tiredness could make communication even more difficult.
When they would meet someone new, partners would often protect the image of the person with hearing loss to make sure that they weren’t perceived as rude.
Partners would generally provide support in one of two ways: they would either help their partner when they were having difficulty hearing or help them get hearing aids.
Negative Emotions You and/or Your Partner Experience as a Result of Hearing Loss
Negative emotions such as the below you or your partner have can contribute to a strain in your relationship.
Decrease in communication because of keeping words to a minimum
Resentment due to frequently compensating for partner's hearing loss by translating to them what they didn’t hear.
Loneliness due to the loss of deep intimate talk
Curtailing social interaction
Decrease in intimate talk, joking with family
Decrease in shared activities, like watching tv or listening to music
The Breakdown of Communication as a Result of Hearing Loss
Even the most supportive partners cannot make up for the communication breakdown resulting from hearing loss. In every case, the nature of their communication is bound to change due to hearing loss.
When communication becomes difficult, those small interactions – the very building blocks of relationships – become frustrating and challenging and sometimes, completely lost. When partners find communication altered and riddled with the obstacles of hearing loss, oftentimes these small asides – whether trivial comments and observations or jokes – are abandoned.
Frustration is a common symptom of hearing loss. Misunderstandings, having to repeat yourself, increasing the volume of your voice, or on the side of the person with hearing loss – not being able to understand what your partner is saying – can lead to friction in the relationship and even conflict.
Without treatment like hearing aids, avoiding frustration is nearly impossible and requires substantial patience and adapting to new circumstances. Even in the best cases, the feeling of loss is inevitable as prior communication habits are abandoned and feelings of isolation or resentment creep in.
Health Impacts of Hearing Loss That Lead to Strain in Relationships
Did you know that hearing loss can have health impacts on both the person suffering from hearing loss and their partner?
For the person suffering from hearing loss, untreated hearing loss can lead to the atrophy of the speech and language centers of the brain. This can result in auditory deprivation and an increased risk of cognitive decline and conditions like dementia.
Hearing loss can also have an impact on the partner’s health. Increased levels of frustration, stress, and loneliness can have negative impacts on health. Worrying about your partner’s health, safety, and communication can make these problems even worse.
Signs Your Partner is Experiencing Hearing Loss
As we age, it’s common to experience some level of hearing loss. However, it may not become a problem until it begins to affect daily communication and relationships.
Signs that your partner is experiencing hearing loss that can strain your relationship include:
Frequently asking you or others to repeat yourself.
Turning up the volume on the radio or television to an uncomfortably loud level.
Having trouble hearing appliances around the house like the microwave, the phone, and the doorbell ringing.
Increasing the volume of their voice when they’re speaking to you.
Fatigue from straining to listen during your conversations.
Trouble hearing you in noisy environments.
Becoming frustrated and annoyed during your conversations.
How to Talk to Your Partner About Hearing Loss
Even if you notice your partner isn’t hearing well, they may not yet be fully aware of it. As we mentioned, it’s common for the partner of the person experiencing the hearing loss to be the first person to make them aware of the problem. Making them aware of the problem is very important so that the two of you can address it, adapt to the hearing loss, and get treatment for it.
Here are some tips to help you have this discussion:
Choose the right time. Pick a time when both you and your partner have enough free, uninterrupted time so the conversation isn’t rushed. Also, make sure it’s a time when both of you are in a good mood and there are no unresolved conflicts hovering over the conversation.
Use the best tone. Make sure to be assertive, but use a caring tone free of judgment or condescension.
Explain the signs. If you’re worried they may not believe you, explain the signs you’ve been noticing that point to their hearing loss.
Explain the impact. Be frank about how the hearing loss has been affecting your relationship. Otherwise, they may not worry about it too much and might not seek treatment.
Explain health concerns. As we discussed, hearing loss can have negative mental and physical health impacts on both the person with hearing loss and their partner.
Explain other impacts of hearing loss. Hearing loss lowers quality of life. Increased levels of frustration alone can have a significant impact on the emotions of the person experiencing hearing loss. If they’ve been more agitated and frustrated recently, explain that getting a hearing aid could alleviate these feelings.
Get your own hearing tested. If they’re hesitant to get their hearing tested, make an appointment for yourself and ask them to come with you. After going to the appointment with you, they could decide to test their own hearing.
Test and Treat Your Hearing Loss at Houston Ear, Nose, Throat & Allergy
Although hearing loss can lower quality of life and lead to strained relationships, fortunately, treatment is straightforward and very effective. At Houston ENT, we have highly trained audiologists that can test you and your loved ones' hearing and get you the right hearing aid as soon as possible.
With the top-of-the-line treatment from Houston ENT, the person experiencing hearing loss will be back to their old self and enjoying clear communication again before they know it. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!