Do you find that you have to ask people to repeat themselves more often? It’s easy to make the mistake that your hearing loss is only affecting you, however, the effects are far-reaching, especially in your most important relationships. Multiple studies have shown that untreated hearing loss can negatively impact our relationships with family, friends, and particularly with those closest to us, such as romantic partners.
Communication is key to a healthy relationship
The cornerstone of any relationship is communication and this requires us to be able to hear what people say to us daily and respond accordingly. What builds relationships and makes them stronger is not just important decisions and big ideas. It’s the day-to-day communication that builds closeness, support, understanding, and intimacy. It’s the casual banter, the inside jokes, and trivial details which build a sense of home with others.
Hearing loss often starts slowly and becomes worse gradually. It can take years for you to even realize you have a hearing issue. However, this doesn’t mean that the people close to you won’t notice as the loss develops. A small but important interaction becomes less frequent and strained distance builds and frustration takes the place of intimacy.
The Isolation of Hearing Loss
Social interactions become more difficult to navigate as hearing loss develops. Often it begins with the loss of certain tones, pitches, or consonants such as “s”, “h”, or “f”. This leaves spaces in words and perceived breaks in sentences, making conversation difficult to navigate. Commonly, over time people choose to avoid social situations rather than deal with the frustration of broken communication. However, it’s not only for those with hearing loss who are isolated. It’s common for the partners of those with hearing loss to often feel estranged and lonely when the quality of conversation declines. That loneliness and frustration over the years can lead to resentment. It can be difficult to spend your time constantly repeating yourself, having to be an interpreter when you both are out, and finding yourself unmatched during conversation.
Study on the Effect of Hearing Loss and Relationships
To quantify the effects of hearing loss on relationships a report titled “In it together: The impact of hearing loss on personal relationships” was compiled by Action on Hearing Loss. They led and compared 23 interviews conducted with those with hearing loss and their partners with the goal of answering the question: “How do partners and their families respond to hearing loss?”
While it seemed that those with hearing loss revered their partners as major sources of support, identifying the hearing loss and encouraging treatment, they noted that the partners, in general, had a lack of understanding of the nuances of communicative support. For instance, it was a struggle for many partners to understand the difficulty of communicating in noisy environments such as restaurants or other crowded rooms or the erosive effects of listening fatigue when living with a hearing loss.
The report also identified that both partner and person with hearing loss both agreed on one thing: There was a significant change in the nature and content of their communication due to hearing loss.
While hearing loss in most cases is permanent it can be effectively treated. The first step is attending a hearing exam – a step that is commonly avoided. Many fear that admitting hearing loss may be admitting aging or weakness. We encourage you to look at it from another perspective: Untreated hearing loss is incredibly isolating, causing you to miss out on important details and erode relationships. However, by admitting a hearing loss and seeking treatment you can start to reconnect to the people in your life that you care for again.
Hearing Aids Improve Relationships
The most common treatment is hearing aids which can be programmed based on your hearing exam to amplify only the sounds you struggle with. Hearing aids can reduce miscommunication and allow you to start to rebuild relationships that have been developing strain for years. Even a slight hearing loss can build rifts in relationships so the sooner you act on a hearing loss the less of a chance you have of developing distance in your relationships. Screen regularly for hearing loss. Start now by scheduling a hearing exam today.