We all know that communication is key to a healthy relationship. We also know that listening is key to healthy communicating. Hearing loss steadily robs us of precious moments of connectivity in our relationships. An intimate whisper of an inside joke accompanied by a touch on the knee. A well-timed, low-volume warning against a potential social faux-pas. Sitting together enjoying a favorite TV show, movie or song. Eating and talking with your children and grandchildren. Those moments are the sweet and simple treasures of a well-lived life.
Even if the lack of listening is related to hearing impairment, not being heard may take a serious toll on your loved ones, especially your significant other. In a study published in 2004, the authors focused on the impacts of hearing loss on the partners of older adults and found “…with the onset of hearing loss, long-standing patterns of communication can be altered and patterns previously taken for granted may no longer work. When communication breaks down, all persons involved in a relationship are affected.”
While the affected relationships can also include family, friends, and co-workers the biggest impact would, of course, be felt by the person closest to us – a spouse. The study authors went on to say, “In the setting of long-term marriages, the onset of hearing loss creates a need to change potentially long-standing patterns of relating and can create unmet needs and affect quality of life.”
We are a remarkably adaptive species and we make miniscule adjustments every day. It’s not hard to imagine how drastic changes in patterns established over years and decades of togetherness can be jarring to both people in a relationship. To be clear, these changes are impactful and affect our social core of connection, routine and respect.
In a 2007 survey by Cochlear Americas, participants who communicated with people with impaired hearing noted feeling ignored, as well as:
Unfortunately, any of those feelings over an extended period, which is often what it takes to admit to, evaluate and treat hearing problems, is enough to damage even the strongest of bonds. We are a remarkably adaptive species and sometimes the adaptation is easier than the admission that something is wrong. If we no longer hear the timer for the microwave when it goes off, we linger in the kitchen until the food is ready. If we start to lose fragments of conversation during phone calls, an occasional “Uh-huh” or “Yes, of course” can act as a reasonable band-aid. A lot of coping mechanisms will work on most people we interact with, but they fail the one person we value and need the most.
Our partners are our greatest resource for this journey through life and a crucial element as we navigate our health. Invite them to the conversation about how to find the best hearing aids for you. Include them in your research on the cost of hearing aids. They know you well and can give valuable insight and guidance. Protecting your spouse’s well-being by improving your hearing healthcare is simple and the first step is to schedule a hearing evaluation with an audiologist, hearing aid specialist or other licensed professional.