Janet has stopped leaving her home. Noisy, chaotic places give her a headache – and she can’t really hear the conversations all that well (also thanks to the noise). So, she stays home more often.
As a result, so does her partner.
We typically think of hearing loss as a solitary issue – something that impacts one individual only. Hearing loss is not contagious, after all. While that’s true, there are secondary effects of hearing loss – especially when it’s left untreated – that ripple out and impact those around you. This is especially true for your spouse or partner. Being aware of these secondary effects can help preserve your hearing – and your relationship!
The effects of hearing loss on your partner
Hearing loss can develop due to a broad range of reasons, though it’s often caused, at least in part, by long-term exposure to loud noises. Therefore, it’s often the case that one individual in a relationship, or social group, develops hearing loss first or exclusively.
There are several ways your hearing loss might affect your partner:
- Socially: When you stop going out to dinner, your partner probably will, too. It’s well known that untreated hearing loss can dramatically impact your social life in negative ways, which can ultimately lead to significant social isolation. It’s important to remember your isolation can also cause your partner to feel more isolated. If you and your partner share friends, for example, your partner might feel as though he or she is missing out by staying in.
- Mentally: When experiencing untreated hearing loss, your brain strains to compensate (this compensation can actually cause fatigue, memory loss, or even lead to long-term cognitive decline). The same is true of your partner. When you can’t hear the waiter, it’s your partner who will end up repeating what he says. There are probably few people you speak to as often as your partner, who, in turn, will have to work harder to make sure you can understand him or her. This may lead to both of you expending significant effort on even the simplest conversations.
- Strained relationships: Eventually, a lack of communication can lead to a fissure in your relationship. Of course, it’s entirely possible that relationship problems caused by your hearing loss will eventually morph into something more long-term and harmful, especially if your hearing loss goes untreated. Many couples report that their relationships become much more tense or that they experience increased animosity due to untreated hearing loss issues.
This is a phenomenon typically described as “Third-Party Disability.” The third-parties (in this case, the partners) may not suffer from hearing loss directly, but their lives do change in ways significant enough for them to recognize.
It’s important to acknowledge that hearing loss is a chronic condition. This means the effects on your partner will be long-lasting and likely cumulative, as well.
Treatment is essential
Treating your hearing loss is absolutely essential. Not only will you be improving your own health, but you’ll also be making things easier for your partner. Look at it like this: if Janet starts wearing her hearing aids, she’ll have a much easier time hearing conversations (that’s the point of hearing aids, after all).
Because she has an easier time hearing conversations:
- She’s more inclined to leave her home (and she has a more enjoyable time when she does). This means her partner’s social life also flourishes.
- Her brain won’t have to work so hard all the time, which will improve her memory, alertness, and mood. It also means Janet’s partner won’t have to spend a lot of time repeating what the waiter said or portions of the friendly conversation she missed. This might sound trivial, but making life less stressful will also prevent long-term cognitive decline and maybe even dementia.
- As a result of better communication, there may be less tension between Janet and her partner. Simply knowing what’s happening with one’s health and hearing can provide relief and reconciliation. It’s nice to know your partner isn’t simply ignoring you!
Not everyone’s hearing loss treatment will look identical. Some individuals may require hearing aids, while others may not. The key is to understand that you may not realize you’re experiencing hearing loss. That’s why it’s essential you regularly visit a hearing specialist so you can undergo hearing screenings and receive any necessary treatment as soon as possible.
The earlier you catch and treat hearing loss, the fewer problems you’ll have in life. That goes for your partner, too.