Hearing loss or impairment is a widespread issue that’s getting increasingly worse over time. And while missing out on a reply or a comment from a friend or loved one can be frustrating, hearing loss can also leave you feeling alone or isolated. There’s nothing worse than being out with a group of friends or at a social gathering and not being able to follow the conversation. To miss out on the world around you because you can’t track the words of your fellow dinner patrons or party guests.
It can also be frustrating to be on the delivering end of the conversation. At times you might have even wondered if your significant other or bestie has selective hearing. You constantly have to repeat yourself and feel ignored… and alone.
After years of repeating yourself, you may be wondering if something is actually wrong with your speaking voice. Are you speaking too softly? Do you, in fact, really mumble? But you notice the television’s volume has grown louder in recent months as well. Perhaps there’s something more at play than not wanting to converse with you or an issue with your speaking volume. Perhaps your loved one really can’t hear you, and when that starts happening, you have to be proactive and do something about it. Because hearing loss isn’t just about losing your hearing, it’s about losing the interactions with the world around you.
As you get older, hearing loss becomes a profound problem for both women and men. In fact, more than 48 million Americans experience some type of hearing impairment. From a societal standpoint, it’s only going to get worse. According to a 2017 study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, the number of adults with a hearing impairment will increase exponentially in the next 40 years. That translates into much more spending on hearing devices and audiologist services.
When it comes to your relationships, though, hearing loss can be a silent killer. That’s because communication suffers when someone can’t hear well. That doesn’t just mean your husband “forgets” to pick up orange juice on his way home or doesn’t remember that your niece has finally set a wedding date. In reality, hearing loss can create much deeper divisions within a relationship. Of people who experience hearing impairment, 44 percent say the condition created problems with their significant others, and 34 percent said hearing loss caused romantic relationships, including marriages, to end.
Communication is key to solid relationships, whether discussing something important, like finances, or something trivial, like what’s for lunch. A hearing impairment can cause both the big details and seemingly insignificant ones to slip through the cracks. When that happens, frustration builds.
Frustration often leads to resentment, which causes even more breakdowns in communication. Ultimately, emotional intimacy suffers, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation in even the most solid relationships. According to a survey, 35 percent of people said the relationship with their significant other suffered the most following a diagnosis of hearing loss.
A lack of emotional intimacy is at the root of relationship problems resulting from hearing loss. Emotional intimacy comes from expressing verbal and nonverbal feelings to one another. As long as those needs are met, the relationship grows. If they are not, the relationship will suffer. Meaningful communication is vital to establishing emotional intimacy. If it’s not there, the toll on both partners is costly.
Communication breakdowns aren’t caused simply because one party can’t hear. They may also come about because the hearing individual changes their communication style, either out of convenience or frustration.
Consider this scenario. Mary returns home after taking her mother to a doctor’s appointment. Her husband asks how it went.
“Not as well as I’d hoped. The doctor wants her to take a new medication that could potentially have some bad side effects. But it could prevent the need for surgery,” she said.
“Wait, what? Slow down. I didn’t get all that,” he says.
“Well, she’s going to start a new medicine but may not need to have surgery,” Mary says.
“So she’s going to have surgery?” he responds.
“No. No surgery. The appointment went fine,” Mary says.
“Oh, that’s good,” he says.
Because of her husband’s trouble hearing, Mary wasn’t able to communicate effectively. She omitted important details out of sheer frustration instead of ensuring her husband fully understood what occurred during the appointment. Her husband is left without an accurate picture of the situation, and Mary feels isolated since she can’t fully discuss her mother’s health with her husband.
A hearing impairment can also cause mix-ups in conversations, leading to hurt feelings and animosity. Words get misconstrued, context confused, and important details can slip by, causing contention. It can be a rather jarring juxtaposition in long-term relationships when one partner suddenly starts saying mean or hurtful things to the other. In actuality, this may not be the case at all. It may just be that the person didn’t hear everything that was said or didn’t ask for clarification due to frustration, embarrassment, or anger.
The problem can also cause people to behave differently in social settings. Those with a hearing impairment may suddenly start interrupting people while they’re speaking or joining conversations inappropriately. These impolite acts that seem out of character may cause loads of embarrassment for both parties.
If it’s difficult to participate in conversations, people with hearing loss may withdraw from social activities they once enjoyed. When you feel like you’re alone in a crowd, trying to follow along with conversations but only hearing noise can lead to frustration and feelings of isolation. This can be confusing and frustrating for a partner as well, who then misses dinners out with friends or going to the theater. At home, couples may not joke around as much, or they may stop taking part in activities they once enjoyed. Even something as simple as watching television together may cease due to disagreements over volume, or television may no longer be enjoyable for the partner with hearing loss.
When these things change, partners feel a keen loss of companionship. There’s an acute sense of isolation that comes when one partner isn’t fully engaged in a couple’s life together. Luckily, advancements in technology make it easier for couples to cope with mild to moderate hearing loss. For example, products like the AccuVoice ® TV speakers lift voices out of background noises, making dialogue clear and easy to understand. This prevents the need for blaring volumes on the TV and the argument that comes with them.
Fortunately, this is a problem with a straightforward solution. Hearing aids make a world of difference for couples dealing with hearing loss, helping restore emotional intimacy and communication. The hearing partner can also learn better ways to communicate with someone suffering from a hearing impairment.
For help, start with an audiologist. They will conduct a hearing screening to determine if your significant other is experiencing hearing loss. If so, they will also recommend a solution to improve the situation. Again, technology advancements are making the transition to hearing aids like VoiceBuds less painless and the results even more beneficial to all parties involved.
Don’t wait until things have deteriorated in your relationship to seek help or for your friends to stop inviting you because you’ll either say no or be obviously uncomfortable during social interactions. Resources are available that can improve your communication and prevent feelings of resentment or isolation from growing larger.
If you or a loved one needs hearing aids, either for the first time or to replace an aging pair, we’ve partnered with ZVOX to provide exclusive savings on some of their top products:
It’s time to take back your life and stop feeling the isolating effects of hearing loss.
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