Good communication has often been called the cornerstone of any romantic relationship. It’s important for not only helping us meet our needs, but also keeping us connected to our loved ones. As much as we try to maintain our connection to our partner, just one companion’s untreated hearing loss can inadvertently break down communication in the relationship.
In fact, a recent study documented some of the most distinct communication difficulties and the aftermath that came between couples as a result of the untreated hearing loss.
Hearing loss impacts couples’ communication, study shows
Academics at the University of Nottingham examined the impact of untreated hearing loss on communication among couples. The research identified issues reported by the individual with hearing loss as well as their partner.
These problems included:
- Disagreements over audio volume: Individuals who were hard of hearing reportedly needed the volume louder than their loved ones preferred.
- Difficulties managing phone calls: While loved ones with hearing loss struggled to hear the phone ring and the person on the other line, their partners faced the burden of continually having to answer the phone or alerting them that the phone was ringing.
- Challenges in shared social situations: Those with untreated hearing loss contended with conversation struggles, particularly when the pair attended events with lots of background noise.
Meanwhile, loved ones with normal hearing cited their companions’ hearing loss as a source of “reduced enjoyment” at such gatherings. Some also reported attending them alone.
In the end, both partners admitted to becoming more “socially withdrawn” because of—you guessed it—the untreated hearing loss.
- Emotional distress overall: Companions with normal hearing experienced strain and stress over having to adapt to their loved ones’ hearing loss. However, they also expressed remorse about their reactions to the hearing loss and incomprehension of their companions’ challenges.
Do any of these issues sound familiar? Don’t despair—there is something you can do about it.
What to do if hearing loss is affecting your relationship
If you are feeling the impact of untreated hearing loss on your connection with your loved one, you don’t have to concede to speaking louder, declining invitations, and so on. You can help them to get their hearing loss treated, so that they can hear better—and you both can live better.
1. Start the conversation
First, keep in mind your partner may be in denial or feeling self-conscious about their hearing loss. Try gently addressing it with, “I’ve noticed recently...” and then provide actual examples that demonstrate the hearing problem.
For example, perhaps you’ve noticed your loved one hasn’t been seeing their friends much and you’re concerned about them becoming isolated.
Or that their relatives are increasingly responding, “never mind” when they miss the punchlines in conversations—which happens a lot. Point these out to your companion and be their advocate.
It is also worth sharing with your loved one the devastating impact untreated hearing loss can have on quality of life—including the increased risk of dementia, falls, depression, and more (all backed by research).
Simultaneously, you can assure them of the positive effects of treating hearing loss, including a significant improvement in quality of life, reduced risk of cognitive decline, and even the potential to live longer.
2. Encourage them to take an online hearing test
Following your initial conversation about the hearing loss, your companion may still be hesitant to visit a hearing care professional. A simple interim solution is to have them take an online hearing test at home.
Starkey's user-friendly online hearing test will ask your partner to answer a few short questions and then listen to a series of tones. It only takes a few minutes and will give you both a basic understanding of any hearing loss issue that exists.
Moreover, the online hearing test can help reduce your partner’s fears by providing an idea of what the simple, pain-free professional hearing evaluation might be like.
3. Schedule a visit with a hearing care professional
Help your loved one make an appointment with a licensed hearing care professional to get an expert diagnosis and to address the hearing loss. Simply type your zip code in here to generate a list of local providers. Or, if your partner has a trusted physician, they can ask them for a referral.
Next, offer to take them to their appointment. This is a great way to support your companion while ensuring they don’t miss it. Once there, feel free to ask questions and join the conversation about different treatments and/or hearing aid options.
Better hearing, better relationships
Acclaimed author of The Five Love Languages and marriage counselor Gary Chapman, Ph. D., said, “The object of love is not getting something you want but doing something for the well-being of the one you love.”
So, whether you have hearing loss or love someone who does: Why not make today the day to choose better health and happiness for each other—and to take on that hearing loss together?
With love, support, and understanding by your side, you and your loved one can get the hearing loss treated and restore that all-important connection that brought you together in the first place. What’s not love about that?
Happy Valentine’s Day!