Contributed by Joy Victory, managing editor, Healthy Hearing
"It's not all about you," as they say. This applies to many areas of life, but it is particularly true if your hearing isn't what it used to be. You might think your hearing loss only affects you, but consider this: Is your hearing loss causing problems in your relationship?
Hearing loss does not occur in a vacuum. Studies show that untreated hearing loss can negatively impact our relationships with family and friends and particularly with those closest to us, such as our romantic partners.
Hearing loss strains relationships
Research makes it pretty clear that untreated hearing loss can be a major source of stress, especially among couples.
"Studies show that hearing loss produces feelings of frustration, embarrassment, and distress for the partner and for the relationship in general," said two researchers who conducted a qualitative study of couples where one partner had hearing loss.
The researchers found that "both the hearing-impaired participants and their close partners bemoaned the loss of spontaneity and the difficulties of sharing small unexpected incidents, observations and small talk in their everyday interactions."
Communication is key to a healthy relationship
Day to day communication among couples, whether about important matters or those that seem trivial, are the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. Hearing loss can cause those small but important interactions to be lost. When communication breaks down, frustration creeps in. That frustration can lead to resentment, which leads to further breakdown in communication and intimacy. The result? A sense of loneliness and isolation for both partners.
“All too often spouses blame each other’s ability to listen when in fact it is truly a hearing problem that is chipping away at their ability to communicate,” said audiologist Patricia Chute, professor and chair of the Division of Health Professions at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
A report titled “In it together: The impact of hearing loss on personal relationships” by Action on Hearing Loss revealed the results of 23 interviews conducted with those with hearing loss and their partners. The goal of the interviews was to answer the basic question, “How do partners and their families respond to hearing loss?”
Even supportive partners struggle to understand
The interviews revealed both the positives and negatives in terms of partnership when it comes to hearing loss. While those with hearing loss viewed their partners as a valuable source of support and as having an important role in creating awareness of the presence of hearing loss and encouraging treatment, there was a downside: Participants in the interviews stated that even the most supportive partners seemed to have difficulty truly understanding hearing loss, for example how listening fatigue and background noise play a role in how much their partner could hear at any given time. And overall, both the hearing partners and those with hearing loss agreed on one thing: There had been a significant change in the nature and content of their communication as a result of hearing loss.
All of this research confirms that even the smallest communications, even those normally deemed as unimportant, actually build intimacy and connection between partners. 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.
Negative emotions connected to hearing loss
Hearing loss can cause a cascade of detrimental effects and negative emotions between partners. Among these:
Tips for talking your partner about hearing loss
If your partner or spouse isn’t hearing well
Living with someone who can’t hear can be frustrating, especially when they are unaware of the problem. If they constantly ask you to repeat yourself, turn up the volume on the television to an uncomfortable level, or have trouble hearing the telephone, microwave or doorbell chime, it might be time to have a heart-to-heart chat. Pick a quiet time when the two of you are in a good mood and you can talk uninterrupted. Use a firm, caring tone that is not judgemental or condescending.
If your partner says you aren’t hearing well
Hearing loss is a equal opportunity offender, so it’s not inconceivable your spouse may gently suggest you have your hearing evaluated one day. If he or she does...
Hearing loss and marriage: Hearing aids can resolve issues
Interventions such as hearing aids can not only improve quality of life, but can improve relationship satisfaction, communication and social functioning. From having intimate conversations with their partners to watching TV together or socializing, people who get hearing aids find that they are once again able to enjoy life. And more importantly, they are able to enjoy life once again as a part of a couple.
So think about the relationships that matter in your life. Has communication with those you love suffered? If you are experiencing communication issues due to hearing loss, don’t wait to seek treatment. Make an appointment with a hearing care professional today.
Reprinted with permission. Copyright Healthy Hearing (www.healthyhearing.com). Original article: https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52619-The-impact-of-hearing-loss-on-relationships