Hearing loss is often called an “invisible disability,” because it cannot be detected by just looking at someone. Due to this, those with hearing loss might suffer alone, while depression, loneliness and frustration can develop. When in a relationship, the person without hearing loss may feel resentment and confusion as they try to figure out what’s gone wrong.
Communication is the cornerstone to any healthy relationship. It builds trust and intimacy and can make conflict easier to deal with.1 Every conversation with your loved one is important. When an individual has hearing loss, the joy that comes from talking to a loved one can fade away as they struggle to hear. Even the most supportive of people may find the lack of communication disheartening. Studies show that hearing loss can negatively impact relationships, particularly romantic relationships.2
With the right mindset, patience and some helpful tips, communication and intimacy can be maintained.
Maintaining relationships with hearing lossIf you are living with hearing loss, you are likely aware of the strain it can put on your relationship. Between the mental fatigue and the lack of conversation, it can feel like an uphill battle. Here are a few tips that can help close the gap between you and your loved one.
Make sure the extent of your hearing loss is understood. While your loved one may have a theoretical understanding of hearing loss, they may not fully comprehend the extent of its effects on your life. For example, your spouse may not know what you can and cannot hear, or how background noise and listening fatigue may impact your hearing. Communication is key to ensuring both individuals are on the same page. An honest discussion about what you are experiencing, both from a hearing and an emotional perspective, will do wonders for both parties.
Let your loved ones know if you can’t hear. Although it may feel embarrassing, there is nothing wrong with speaking up if you can’t hear a conversation. Simply smiling and
nodding along may feel like an easier route, but in the long run, it may lead to serious miscommunication. If needed, ask your loved one to fill in gaps of conversation or provide a recap afterwards.
Utilize techniques to maximize conversations with others. To improve communication with your loved one, try some of the following suggestions. Picking the right location for conversations is key. Avoid areas with many different sources of sound, such as speakers or multiple, ongoing conversations. Even the flooring and walls can make a difference! Soft materials like carpet can help dampen ambient noise, allowing you to hear others better. Do you have trouble hearing in a group setting? Consider taking your loved one aside for a private discussion. If you struggle with one-sided hearing loss, have your loved one sit near your stronger ear. Utilizing all or some of these ideas could make a world of difference.
Start the journey to better hearing. One of the most positive things you can do to help your hearing loss and communication issues is to get hearing aids. Studies show that hearing aid users wait approximately 7-10 years before getting help for hearing loss.3 Hearing loss does not improve with time. Waiting to address hearing loss only opens you up to other potential health risks and prolongs your difficulty in communication.
HearingLife’s hearing care experts can provide you with a complimentary hearing assessment and recommend the best hearing aids for you, your hearing ability and budget. They will educate you and your partner about hearing aids and the many benefits they can bring to your daily life.
Helping a loved one with hearing lossLoving someone with hearing loss can be daunting. Even the most patient and caring person can become frustrated by the lack of communication that results from hearing loss.
Learn how hearing loss is affecting your loved one. One of the most important things you can do to help support your relationship is to try to understand the extent of your loved one’s hearing loss. It’s important to understand how they are experiencing the world, and what you can do to help them better communicate with others.
Focus on having face-to-face conversations. Individuals with hearing loss often utilize lip reading to better understand others. Speaking with someone from another room or looking in another direction while speaking can make communication difficult. Understanding and accepting your loved one’s limitations can help enhance your relationship.
Inform them if they are missing something in conversations. If you feel that your loved one missed something vital in a conversation, at a convenient time, take them aside and explain what was potentially missed. While it is important to not assume things are missed, it is also important to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Speak naturally. Individuals with hearing loss do not want to be patronized. While speaking with your loved one, do not yell or speak too slowly. While we do recommend speaking clearly and enunciating, do so in a way that is not condescending.
The most fundamental way to support your loved one with hearing loss is to be patient. There will be times of miscommunication and slower conversations than usual. Don’t underestimate the importance of compassion and empathy.
Discussing hearing lossMany individuals are not aware they have hearing loss. If you notice changes in your loved one’s hearing abilities, discuss your observations. While it can be a difficult conversation to have, it’s important to get care for hearing loss early. Explain your concerns for their health as well as the health of your relationship.
Some signs of hearing loss include the following:
- Difficulty understanding speech, especially against background noise
- Frequently asking others to speak more slowly or loudly
- Turning the television volume up too loud
- Buzzing or ringing sounds in your ears
Connect with others todayIf you or a loved one are struggling with hearing loss, HearingLife is here to help. Locate your nearest HearingLife office and schedule an appointment for a complimentary hearing assessment. Through our personalized care, our professionals can help you rediscover the sounds of the life you love.
1 Lavner JA, Karney BR, Bradbury TN. Does Couples' Communication Predict Marital Satisfaction, or Does Marital Satisfaction Predict Communication?. J Marriage Fam. 2016;78(3):680-694. doi:10.1111/jomf.12301
2 Ask H, Krog NH, Tambs K. Impact of hearing on spousal mental health: the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study. Eur J Public Health. 2010;20(3):271-275. doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckp176