It’s something everyone deals with, but few people want to talk about – hearing loss, and its effect on our personal relationships. Research shows one in three adults between the ages of 65 and 74 is experiencing hearing loss. Furthermore, 28.8 million Americans would benefit from wearing a hearing aid. Sadly, only about 30% of these individuals actually wear their hearing aids.
This inaction leads to difficulty hearing, as well as increased dementia rates, depression, and strained relationships. Many people experiencing hearing loss simply suffer in silence.
But spring is right around the corner. It’s a time for emerging leaves, flowers, new beginnings, and growing together. Isn’t it time to renew your relationship by talking about your loved one’s hearing loss?
It’s important to have “the talk”
Studies have found that an individual with untreated hearing loss is 2.4 times more likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. When the part of your brain used for hearing becomes less active, it can start a cascade effect that can impact your entire brain. Doctors call this brain atrophy. It’s the “use it or lose it” principle in action.
Depression rates among those with hearing loss are nearly double that of an individual with healthy hearing. Research shows that as a person’s hearing loss worsens, he often becomes anxious and agitated. The individual may begin to isolate himself from friends and family members. He’s likely to stop involving himself in the activities he once enjoyed as he sinks deeper into a state of sadness.
This, in turn, can lead to relationship strain among mother and son, daughter and father, close friends, spouses, and other people in this person’s life.
Solving the mystery
Your loved one may not be ready to tell you she is experiencing hearing loss. She may be afraid or ashamed. She may be in denial. You may need to do some detective work to determine when it’s time to have the conversation.
Since you can’t hear what your spouse or parent hears, you’ll have to rely on outward cues, such as:
- Avoiding conversations
- Watching TV with the volume extremely high
- Not hearing important sounds, like the doorbell, dryer buzzer, or someone calling her name
- Agitation or anxiety in social settings that you haven’t previously observed
- Avoiding busy places
- Sudden difficulty with work, hobbies, or school
- Complaining about ringing, humming, static, or other sounds that you don’t hear
- Frequent misunderstandings
Look for these common symptoms and plan to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your loved one.
How to talk about hearing loss
Having this discussion may not be easy. A spouse in denial may brush it off or become defensive. That’s why approaching hearing loss in an appropriate manner is so important. You may need to modify your language based on your unique relationship, but the steps will be more or less the same.
Step 1: Let him know that you love him unconditionally and value your relationship.
Step 2: You are concerned about her health. You’ve read the studies. You know that untreated hearing loss can lead to an increased risk of dementia and depression. You don’t want that for your loved one.
Step 3: You’re also concerned about your own health and safety. An overly loud television could damage your hearing. In addition, studies show that elevated noise can cause anxiety, which may impact your relationship. Your loved one may not hear you calling for help if you’ve fallen or someone’s broken into the house.
People connect with others through emotion. If you can paint an emotional picture of the what-ifs, it’s more impactful than simply listing facts.
Step 4: Agree together to make an appointment to get a hearing test. Do it right away after making the decision. Don’t wait.
Step 5: Be ready for objections. These could happen anywhere in the process. You know this person. What will his objections be? Money? Time? Does he not see a problem? Does he think he can use homemade remedies? You know “natural hearing loss cures” don’t really work and could cause more harm than good.
Be ready with your responses. You might even rehearse them in the mirror. They don’t have to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should address your loved one’s concerns.
Grow your relationship
Talking about hearing loss isn’t easy if your significant other isn’t willing to discuss it. But by having this conversation, you’ll grow closer and get your loved one the help he or she needs to live a longer, healthier, more fulfilling life. Growing together – isn’t that what love is all about?