You might think your hearing problem only affects you, but your spouse, family, friends, and co-workers might have already had it up to here.
Untreated hearing problems are a major cause of stress in relationships, especially with those closest to us.
Researchers who conducted a qualitative study of couples, where one partner had hearing loss, found that hearing loss produces feelings of frustration, embarrassment, and distress…especially for the partner without hearing loss.
Day-to-day communication, whether about important matters or trivial, is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. When communication breaks down, frustration creeps in. Frustration leads to resentment, then to further breakdown in intimacy.
Both partners in the study bemoaned the loss of spontaneity, small talk, and sharing small, unexpected incidents. Those small asides, including jokes and humor, bring about shared companionship and reflection. And relationships, especially marriages, experience a significant loss in the absence of that communication. And both partners agreed there had been a meaningful change in the nature and content of their communication because of hearing problems.
EMOTIONS CONNECTED WITH DECREASED HEARING ABILITY
- Curtailing social activities
- Decrease in intimacy, joking, interacting with friends and family.
- Decrease in shared activities (even watching TV)
- Loss of companionship
- Less communication (words are kept to a minimum)
TIPS FOR TALKING TO YOUR PARTNER ABOUT THEIR HEARING
- Tell them it is affecting your relationship. Your partner might be concerned about the stigma of wearing hearing aids, but saying, “what,” “huh,” “pardon me,” all the time is often irritating to others and frustrating to have to repeat everything.
- Tell them you are concerned for their health. When hearing loss is left untreated, the speech and language areas of the brain can atrophy, leading to auditory deprivation and putting a person at increased risk of cognitive decline. Early detection and treatment of hearing problems is the number one factor under your control to prevent and delay dementia.
- Tell them you are concerned about your own health. The additional stress of worrying about your other half’s health and safety can take a physical and emotional toll on your own health. Plus, it is no fun to listen to the TV or stereo when it is cranked up too high, and could be damaging your own hearing, or having to shout or constantly repeat yourself.
- Make an appointment to have your own hearing evaluated and ask them to go with you. First, it is something you should do anyway. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends everyone over fifty get a baseline hearing evaluation. Secondly, it’s always good to have another set of ears to hear what the hearing care provider has to say, no matter who that patient is.
HOW HEARING AIDS IMPROVE RELATIONSHIPS
Wearing hearing aids not only improves your hearing, but it also improves your intimate relationships. Opening that extra channel of communication can stimulate conversation and reduce frustration, providing better understanding of one another.
They reduce miscommunication.
What was that? Did you say, “answer the phone” or “Sarah is home?” Hearing loss can result in a lot of confusion for the person experiencing it. Mistakes made from mishearing your partner could result in fighting and a decline in overall happiness. Relationships are enough work as it is without factoring in the added burden of hearing loss. A hearing aid is a simple solution to reducing miscommunication and maximizing your hearing potential.
They lower frustration and tension
Living with hearing loss requires extra effort. But it requires a lot less effort if you take the available options to improve your hearing. Doing so will not only relieve the stress you experience every day but reduce the stress it places on your loved one. Constant communication is necessary in a relationship, and communication comes much easier when you can hear one another.
Hearing aids make it easier to have a real conversation
People with hearing loss tend to withdraw into themselves because conversation becomes embarrassing and difficult. You may not realize it at first, but you are putting distance between yourself and your loved one by avoiding conversation, whether that be in person or on the phone. Hearing aids, which take some getting used to, allow you to engage in conversation and maintain your connection with your partner much better than if you did not wear them.
They allow you to tune in to each other
All the extra communication opportunities hearing aids provide you allow you to become better tuned to your partner’s needs. Cohabitation becomes much easier when a couple’s understanding of each other improves. Plus, when your partner sees you trying to improve your hearing condition, they are more likely to put in an effort also.