The majority of people don’t want to talk about the impact hearing loss has on relationships, even though it’s a problem many people cope with. Both partners can feel aggravated by the misunderstandings that are created by hearing loss.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner isn’t it a great time to show your love and appreciation for your loved one? A great 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 experience dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. When the region of your brain used for hearing becomes less engaged, it can start a cascade effect that can impact your whole brain. Doctors refer to this as brain atrophy. You remember how the old saying goes, “use it or lose it”.
Depression rates are nearly half in individuals who have normal hearing compared to those who have hearing loss. Research shows that as a person’s hearing loss worsens, they often become anxious and agitated. The individual may begin to separate themselves from family and friends. They are also likely to avoid involving themselves in the activities they used to enjoy as they fall 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 other people in this person’s life. Communication problems need to be handled with patients and compassion.
Your loved one might not be ready to let you know they are developing hearing loss. They may be afraid or embarrassed. They could be in denial. Deciding when to have the talk may take a bit of detective work.
Here are some outward clues you will need to depend on because you can’t hear what other people are hearing:
- Failing to hear alarms, doorbells, and other significant sounds
- Avoiding busy places
- Complaining about ringing, humming, static, or other sounds that you can’t hear
- School, work, and hobbies are starting to become difficult
- Starting to notice anxiety and agitation in social situations
- Repeated misunderstandings
- Watching television with the volume very high
- Avoiding conversations
Watch for these common symptoms and plan on having a heart-to-heart chat with your loved one.
What is the best way to talk about hearing loss?
This talk may not be an easy one to have. A partner in denial may brush it off or become defensive. That’s why it’s essential to approach hearing loss in a sensitive and appropriate way. You may need to alter your language based on your unique relationship, but the steps will be basically the same.
- Step 1: Inform them how much you love them unconditionally and how much you appreciate your relationship.
- Step 2: The state of their health is important to you. You’ve seen the research. You’re aware that untreated hearing loss can lead to an increased risk of depression and dementia. You don’t want your loved one to experience that.
- Step 3: Your own safety and health are also a concern. Your hearing could be damaged by an overly loud TV. Also, your relationship can be impacted, as studies have revealed that overly loud noise can trigger anxiety. If you have a burglar in your house or you’ve taken a fall, your partner may not hear you calling for help. Emotion is a powerful way to connect with others. If you can paint an emotional picture of the what-ifs, it’s more impactful than merely listing facts.
- Step 4: Decide together to make an appointment to get a hearing exam. Do it immediately after making the decision. Don’t hold off.
- Step 5: Be prepared for objections. These could happen anywhere in the process. This is a person you know well. What kind of doubts will they have? Money? Time? Perhaps they don’t detect that it’s an issue. They might feel that homemade remedies will be good enough. (You recognize “natural hearing loss cures” don’t actually work and could cause more harm than good.)
Have your responses prepared ahead of time. Even a little rehearsal can’t hurt. They don’t need to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should concentrate on your loved one’s concerns.
If your spouse isn’t willing to discuss their hearing loss, it can be challenging. Openly discussing the impact of hearing loss on your relationship can help to solidify a plan to deal with any communication challenges and make sure that both partners are heard and understood. In this way, your relationship will grow stronger and your partner will take steps to live a longer, healthier life. And relationships are, after all, about growing together.
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