Love & Hearing Loss: Communication Strategies for Couples

Senior couple with hearing loss drinking morning coffee together

Hearing loss can impact many aspects of your daily life. Untreated hearing loss, for example, can affect your professional life, your favorite hobbies, and even your relationships. For couples who are struggling with hearing loss, communication can become strained. This can cause increased tension, more arguments, and even the growth of animosity. In other words, left unchecked, hearing loss can negatively affect your relationship in significant ways.

So, how does hearing loss impact relationships? In part, these tribulations arise because the parties are not aware of the hearing loss. After all, hearing loss is usually a slow-moving and difficult to notice condition. As a result, you (and your partner) may not recognize that hearing loss is the root cause of your communication issues. This can lead to both partners feeling alienated and make it difficult to find workable solutions.

Often, a diagnosis of hearing loss coupled with helpful strategies from a hearing specialist can help couples start communicating again–and improve their relationships.

Can hearing loss affect relationships?

It’s very easy to overlook hearing loss when it first presents. This can lead to significant misunderstandings between couples. As a result, there are some common issues that develop:

  • Couples often mistake hearing loss for “selective hearing”: Selective hearing is what happens when someone hears “we’re having brownies for dessert” very clearly, but somehow does not hear “we need to take out the garbage before we eat.” In some cases, selective hearing is a conscious action–in other cases, it’s quite unintentional. One of the most common effects of hearing loss on a spouse is that they may start to miss words or certain phrases will seem garbled. This can often be mistaken for “selective hearing,” leading to resentment and tension in the relationship.
  • Arguments: It’s not uncommon for arguments to occur in a relationship–at least, sometimes. But when hearing loss is present, those arguments can become even more frustrating. For some couples, arguments will erupt more often due to an increase in misunderstandings. For others, an increase in arguments could be a result of changes in behavior (for example, increasing the volume on the television to painful levels).
  • Intimacy may suffer: In many relationships, communication is the cornerstone of intimacy. And when that communication becomes harder, all parties may feel more distant from each other. As a result, hearing loss may introduce friction throughout the relationship, leading to more frustration and tension.
  • Feeling ignored: When someone doesn’t respond to what you say, you’re likely to feel ignored. This can often happen when one partner is experiencing hearing loss–and doesn’t know it. Feeling like your partner is not paying attention to you is not good for long term relationship health.

Often, this friction begins to occur before any formal diagnosis of hearing loss. Feelings of resentment may be worse when parties don’t suspect hearing loss is the core problem (or when the partner with hearing loss insists on ignoring their symptoms).

Tips for living with someone who has hearing loss)

If hearing loss can cause so much conflict in a relationship, how do you live with someone who has hearing loss? For couples who are willing to develop new communication strategies, this typically is not a problem. Some of those strategies include the following:

  • Patience: This is especially true when you know that your partner is coping with hearing loss. You may have to repeat yourself more often or vary the volume of your voice. You may also have to speak more slowly. This kind of patience can be a challenge, but it can also drastically improve the effectiveness of your communication.
  • Use different words when you repeat yourself: When your partner doesn’t understand what you said, you will usually try repeating yourself. But rather than using the same words over and over again, try to change things up. Hearing loss can impact some frequencies of speech more than others–which means some words may be harder to understand (while others are easier). Changing your word choice can help reinforce your message.
  • Try to communicate face-to-face as often as possible: Communicating face-to-face can provide a wealth of visual cues for someone with hearing loss. Your partner will be able to read facial cues and body language. It’s also easier to maintain concentration and eye contact. This provides your partner with more information to process, and that usually makes it easier to understand your intent. (Tone can sometimes be hard to interpret with hearing loss–so body language is very helpful.)
  • Help your partner get used to their hearing loss: This can include things like taking over chores that cause significant anxiety (such as going to the grocery store or making phone calls). You can also ask your partner’s hearing specialist if there are ways you can help your partner get used to their hearing aids.
  • Encourage your partner to see a hearing specialist: A hearing specialist can help your partner manage their hearing loss. When hearing loss is well-managed, communication is generally more successful (and many other areas of tension may recede as well). Additionally, treating hearing loss is a safety concern: hearing loss can impact your ability to hear the telephone, smoke detectors and fire alarms, and the doorbell. It may also be difficult to hear oncoming traffic. A hearing specialist can help your partner better manage any of these potential issues.

What happens after your diagnosis?

A hearing test is a relatively simple, non-invasive experience. In most cases, those who undergo tests will do little more than wear specialized headphones and raise a hand when they hear a sound. But a hearing loss diagnosis can be an important step to more effectively managing symptoms–and relationships.

Encouraging your partner to touch base with a hearing specialist can help ensure that hearing loss doesn’t undermine your happiness or your partnership.

Find a provider today.

Want more information?

Checkout these related articles

woman stressed working at desk.
Kevin St. Clergy
| May 15, 2024

Is Stress Silently Eroding Your Hearing Health?

Here’s the strange reason that stress causes hearing loss. But it doesn’t have to. Learn about the why and how to stop stress-related hearing loss. […]

Read More… from Is Stress Silently Eroding Your Hearing Health?

couple fighting on sofa.
Kevin St. Clergy
| May 10, 2024

The Hidden Impact of Hearing Loss on Your Marriage

Hearing loss may lead to more marital trouble at home than you realize. […]

Read More… from The Hidden Impact of Hearing Loss on Your Marriage

adult son talking with dad on the sofa.
Kevin St. Clergy
| May 6, 2024

How to Talk to Your Parents About Their Hearing Loss

You don’t have to feel helpless when you have a loved one struggling with hearing loss. […]

Read More… from How to Talk to Your Parents About Their Hearing Loss

Find A Hearing Expert Near You Today

Discover everything you need to know about hearing loss and hearing aids and find top local hearing experts.

Find An Expert