Hearing is the sense most integral to communication with our loved ones. Living with someone with hearing loss can mean you lose the ability to communicate everything from crucial information about the running of your household to the joy of sharing small anecdotes from your day.
Hearing loss can be caused by a number of factors, including the natural process of aging. In this article we’ll look at how hearing loss can be addressed and remedied, returning intimacy and peace to your household.
The impact of hearing loss on relationships
As your hearing diminishes so too does your ability to communicate, causing feelings of loneliness and isolation to creep in. Unfortunately, many people with hearing loss suffer in ignorance. While the ability to hear can affect your interpersonal communication more than sight, audio clinics are not as prevalent as optometrists, and the majority of people neglect to have their hearing tested until they reach 50+ years of age.
Hearing loss can have a negative impact on relationships, including:
One of the most immediate and upsetting impacts of living with someone with hearing loss is the isolation experienced on both sides: by the sufferer and their loved ones. Those struggling to hear become more isolated and lonely, speaking less often and feeling left out of what’s going on around them. The volume of the television may increase, making it insufferable for anyone else to watch at the same time.
For the members of the family who aren’t being heard, it’s common to feel frustration. This sense of frustration can increase every time you speak to the person who is experiencing hearing loss, and they can’t understand what’s being said.
With a diminished ability to hear what’s going on, those suffering from hearing loss tend to withdraw from social interactions, no longer wishing to attend gatherings where they can’t engage as easily in the conversation. This puts further strain on relationships, as the social circle of the sufferer reduces to their immediate family.
When your partner is suffering from hearing loss, conversations are kept to the bare minimum to ensure the message is received, and playful light discussions become less and less frequent, leading to resentment on both sides. Without the ability to properly communicate, important pillars of relationships such as the ability to express love and compassion can crumble too. Arguments can also be quick to arise when miscommunications or a lack of communication are present, changing the dynamic of previously stable, happy relationships.
Tips for talking to your partner about hearing loss
Communicating with someone with hearing loss can be difficult, as they may feel shame around their condition and not wish to acknowledge their hearing loss. This shame can mean that mentioning the issue can be a taboo topic. It is important to understand that there is a solution to hearing loss, and having your hearing tested and a plan created by an audiologist can restore communication in your relationship.
If your partner or spouse isn’t hearing well
Be in the same place
Do your best to be standing in good light when speaking to your partner so they can pick up on all the visual ways you are communicating; including facial expressions, hand gestures and body language. Ensure you aren’t covering your mouth when you speak and are in the same room, don’t call out to them from the other room.
Speak at a normal volume
Try not to yell, as this can distort the words you’re saying and make it harder for your partner to hear. Speak slowly and distinctly, but as normally as possible. Ensure background noise is at a minimum as this can make it harder for your family member to hear you.
Communicating with someone with hearing loss can be improved if you say their name at the start of your conversation, focusing their attention and helping them to avoid missing words at the beginning of your sentences. Don’t change topics suddenly, ensuring you acquaint the listener with what discussion you’ll be moving onto.
If your partner says you don’t hear well
Explain how you like to communicate
If one ear can hear better than the other, indicate this to your partner and have them speak into this side when they can. Repeat back to your partner what they have told you if the information is important so that pertinent things aren’t missed.
Understand their frustration
While it is incredibly hard not hearing well enough to engage in conversations in the same way you used to, try to show compassion toward your spouse or loved ones when they feel frustrated at the loss of easy communication.
Write down important information
If you are having trouble hearing well, ensure your partner writes down any important information such as dates and times, so there is no disconnect over things like appointments that cannot be missed.
How hearing aids improve relationships
To many, hearing loss can seem like a disability, and consequently, pride stops them from seeking a diagnosis. Hearing loss affects about 17% of Australians, or over 3.5 million people. However, audio hearing devices today are small enough to be almost completely hidden within the ear and are almost unperceivable. With a loss of communication in a relationship being one of the quickest ways for that relationship to fail, seeking help if you are suffering from hearing loss and finding a solution, can save your relationship from disaster and return your household to a state of harmony.
Living with someone with hearing loss can mean that you take on a lot of responsibility on behalf of your partner; being their go-between during conversations, attending to tasks like shopping that may be too overwhelming for your partner, becoming a “secretary”, and collating their appointments and important information. With hearing aids, the independence of those with hearing loss can be restored, allowing them to engage in conversations on their own and venture out like they used to, giving both partners more space and quickly seeing a dramatic improvement in their relationship.
A large amount of intimacy in relationships is gained by general conversation. Not just conversations about the important things, but about day-to-day happenings, making jokes, and sharing words of love and affirmation with your partner. Without this, relationships can become distant rapidly. With the advent of hearing aids, however, the communication loss from missed words and misunderstood conversations can transform into better understanding between you and your partner.
With improved hearing comes an increased suite of activities you and your partner can engage in together. From overcoming the overwhelming background noises of a restaurant and being able to eat out together again, to attending social events, sporting activities or even watching a film together at home, better hearing means better quality time to bond for you and your partner.