It’s something lots of people cope with, but few want to talk about – hearing loss and its impact on personal relationships. Both partners can feel frustrated by the misunderstandings that are created by hearing loss.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner isn’t it the perfect time to express your love and appreciation for your loved one? A wonderful way to do this is to have a discussion about your hearing loss.
Having “the talk”
Studies have revealed that an individual with untreated hearing loss is 2.4 times more likely to develop dementia, and that includes Alzheimer’s disease. A cascade effect that will eventually affect the entire brain will be initiated when the region of your brain responsible for hearing becomes less active. Doctors call this brain atrophy. It’s the “use it or lose it” concept in action.
Depression cases are almost half in individuals who have healthy hearing compared to those who have hearing loss. Studies have shown that as a person’s hearing loss gets worse, they frequently become anxious and agitated. The individual may start to seclude themselves from family and friends. They are also likely to avoid getting involved in the activities they used to enjoy as they fall deeper into a state of depression.
Relationships between family, friends, and others then become strained. Communication problems need to be managed with patients and compassion.
Your loved one might not be ready to inform you they are experiencing hearing loss. They may feel shame and fear. Denial might have set in. Deciding when to have the talk could take a bit of detective work.
Because you can’t hear what your partner or parent hears, you’ll have to depend on outward clues, like:
- Starting to notice anxiety and agitation in social situations
- Avoiding busy places
- Avoiding conversations
- School, work, and hobbies are starting to become difficult
- Watching TV with the volume really high
- Failing to hear alarms, doorbells, and other important sounds
- Repeated misunderstandings
- Complaining about buzzing, humming, static, or other noises that you can’t hear
Plan to have a heart-to-heart talk with your loved one if you detect any of these symptoms.
What is the best way to talk about hearing loss?
Having this discussion 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 important. The steps will be pretty much the same but possibly with some slight modifications based on your specific relationship situation.
- Step 1: Inform them how much you love them without condition and how much you value your relationship.
- Step 2: The state of their health is important to you. You’ve seen the research. You’re aware that a higher risk of depression and dementia comes along with neglected hearing loss. That’s not what you want for your loved one.
- Step 3: You’re also concerned about your own safety and health. Your hearing may be damaged by an excessively loud TV. Also, your relationship can be impacted, as studies have revealed that overly loud noise can cause anxiety. Your loved one may not hear you calling for help if you’ve fallen or someone’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: Agree together to make an appointment to get a hearing assessment. After you make the decision schedule an appointment right away. Don’t hold off.
- Step 5: There might be some objections so be ready. You could encounter these objections at any point in the process. You know this person. What will their objections be? Will it be lack of time, or money? Maybe they don’t detect that it’s an issue. They may feel that homemade remedies will be just fine. (You know “natural hearing loss cures” don’t really work and could cause more harm than good.)
Have your answers prepared ahead of time. You may even rehearse 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 partner isn’t willing to discuss it. Developing a plan to deal with potential communication challenges and the effect hearing loss can have on your relationship will help both partners have confidence that their worries will be heard and understood. By doing this, your relationship will get stronger and your loved one will take steps to live a longer, healthier life. Growing together – isn’t that what love is all about?