HearCare RI - Treating Hearing Loss Saves Your Relationship

Treating Hearing Loss Saves Your Relationship

In Communication, Family and Relationships, hearing loss by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Communication is the foundation of any strong relationship. In healthy romantic relationships, our partners are the ones to whom we’ve committed our best selves, the ones who love us as we are, and the ones who hear us. When we communicate what we need and desire, we trust that our partners hear us and consider our feelings in their actions.

For older Americans, with one in three suffering from hearing loss, communication in a marriage or partnership could prove to be an obstacle. A survey conducted in May 2015, during Better Hearing and Speech Month, found that “of the 27 million U.S. adults with hearing loss, the number one cited relationship that suffered was the one with their romantic partner (35%), followed by friends, family members and coworkers.” Furthermore, a study from France found that the “quality of life is not just lower for the person with an age-related hearing loss, but also the quality of life of the partner is affected.”

How Untreated Hearing Loss Affects Relationships

With untreated hearing loss, studies have found devastating social and psychological effects that range from social isolation to anxiety to depression to a drop in self-esteem. Often times, untreated hearing loss leads to confusion and annoyance in conversations with our romantic partners, when we have to repeat things, or ask our partner to repeat things, multiple times. Social isolation also occurs when we do not feel included in conversations that we cannot make out clearly, especially in noisier environments. With untreated hearing loss, we might feel reservation in contributing to conversations, which are crucial with our significant others.

In the aforementioned French study, it was found that “as a result of the partner’s hearing loss, the partners reported anxiety and stress, limitations of verbal communication and intimacy with their relative. They also reported changes in social activities, avoidance of social gatherings, and feelings of isolation, frustration, resentment, and guilt.” In other words, in a couple where one person experiences hearing loss, the other partner will also experience similar challenges and difficulties.

Adjusting to Life with Hearing Loss

When communication about our emotions is the basis for a healthy relationship, the untreated hearing loss of one or both partners could cause a rift. Social Work Today reported that adults who experience hearing loss incorporate the negative aspects of the experience into their personalities, and “develop ways to cope with and manage hearing loss in their daily lives.” This change in personality, while in a professional or casual social setting may not be substantial, could be significant in intimate relationships. With untreated hearing loss, individuals might find themselves more irritable, anxious, or avoidant.

In addition, studies by Johns Hopkins University have suggested links between hearing loss and dementia, with immediate effects including impaired memory and the inability to complete short-term tasks. These effects could also create tension at home, on a day-to-day basis. Daily life aside, the magic in a romantic relationship lies in an organic spontaneity, with small moments that captivate us and connect us with our partners again and again. With hearing loss untreated, the subtle signals our partners send us might go undetected.

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

If you, or your partner, are experiencing hearing loss, the first step is to open a clear channel of communication. The conversation may be difficult, due to its sensitive nature, but it is essential toward maintaining the foundation of your relationship. You have made a commitment to each other that stands the test of time, and hearing loss, after all, is a natural part of aging.

People wait an average of five to seven years from the time they first notice changes in their hearing abilities until they decide to seek treatment. One way to avoid this element of “surprise” when it comes to a gradual condition such as hearing loss is to take an annual hearing test. With annual tests at HearCare Rhode Island, we’ll keep your results on file and take action if we notice changes with your new hearing test results.

With remarkable technology available to accommodate a wide range of hearing needs, and our experienced team at HearCare Rhode Island ready to offer support, hearing loss is simply one obstacle that you and your partner will overcome together.