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Hearing loss can have an impact on all of your social interactions, but that impact doesn't have to be negative. By getting help and surrounding yourself with supportive friends, you can enjoy life with hearing loss.
2019-08-30

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Navigating Relationships with Hearing Loss

Our relationships with other people are the most important things in our lives. Friends, family, romantic partners, and coworkers are all a large part of our lives, and we want to communicate with them. Here are some tips to help you maintain your social life while dealing with hearing loss.

We spend a lot of time among other people. Our friends and family are a source of happiness and companionship, but hearing loss can put a strain on these relationships. However, there are ways to overcome these challenges and become closer with your loved ones because of them.

The Effects of Hearing Loss on Relationships

The impact of hearing loss on family members and romantic partners is a widely-discussed topic. Hearing loss might lead to rifts in people’s relationships, especially if their loved ones don’t understand their struggle. This leads to many hard-of-hearing people feeling isolated and alone. If you have family members that act insensitively towards your hearing loss, the first step to mending these rifts is not to change yourself but change their outlook. Offer them information on hearing loss, and try to discuss ways that they can improve.

If they act frustrated when you ask them to repeat themselves, explain how this doesn’t help the situation. You want to understand what they’re saying, but it can be difficult to make out their words. If they frequently arrange visits to loud restaurants, ask that they make accommodations for you when they can. This might mean switching venues or finding seating in a quieter area of the restaurant. Don’t feel bad about standing up for yourself and making efforts to improve your experience.

If you are living with someone with hearing loss, particularly a spouse, there are ways that you can improve your relationship on both sides.

Living with a Spouse with Hearing Loss

Hearing loss and marriage sometimes result in conflict, especially if the hearing loss is left undiagnosed or untreated. If you have a partner with hearing loss, you might feel frustrated by certain aspects of the experience. They might listen to things too loudly, not respond when you call them, or deny that they have hearing loss entirely. Hearing loss can also lead people to be irritable or frustrated by their lack of hearing. However, none of these things are being done to spite you. It’s important to remember that their hearing issues affect them more than they impact you, and you should try to be understanding.

If you find yourself getting fed up with some aspect of their hearing loss, try to find a solution that benefits both of you.

  • If they keep missing calls, turn up the volume on their phone and add the vibration function.
  • If they are comfortable being touched, try touching them to get their attention instead of talking or yelling at them.
  • For many people with hearing loss, they don’t notice/understand the other person until they’re looking at them.
  • If you feel frustrated by a lack of understanding, try to speak clearly and look into other forms of communication.

For those living with undiagnosed partners, bring up hearing loss with them privately. Discuss the symptoms you noticed, and how they might benefit from seeking treatment. If you think they might benefit from hearing aids, ask them to consider getting fitted. Don’t put them on-the-spot or confront them about their hearing loss in public. In the end, it’s their decision to do something about their hearing loss, but you can encourage them in a positive way.

Recognising Hearing Loss Symptoms

Dealing with hearing loss can be difficult, but it can be particularly hard if you don’t know that you have it. The symptoms of hearing loss can be overlooked or mistaken for other problems, so it’s important to stay vigilant. Here are some of the most common symptoms of hearing loss:

      • Irritability is common for many reasons. Frustration at not being able to understand speech, mental exhaustion, and lack of focus can all lead to irritability.
      • Ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, might be a sign of hearing damage. Oftentimes, tinnitus is a symptom, not a condition on its own. 
      • Someone with hearing loss might seem lost in thought when in reality they just cannot hear you speaking to them. 
      • Mental fatigue is a common symptom of hearing loss, since the brain has to work overtime to stay aware of important sounds.
      • Trouble carrying on a conversation is a sign of hearing loss. Depending on the type of hearing loss, they might have trouble hearing consonants or certain voices. 
      • People with hearing loss might turn up the television and radio past the point of other people’s comfort since the sound is muffled for them otherwise.
      • Social anxiety and withdrawal are common, since the mingling noise of parties and restaurants might seem too chaotic and hard to hear through.

If you think you or a loved one is suffering from hearing loss, it’s better to get the problem handled sooner rather than later. The faster the issue is identified and diagnosed, the sooner that they can get the treatment they need. If they are unaware of their hearing loss, learning about the condition can help them come to terms with it and begin seeking solutions. For example, once someone knows they have hearing loss, they might feel less shy about asking people to repeat things, speak louder, or turn down music.

Hearing aids are also an option if they so choose. Deciding to get hearing aids can be a big decision, and some might feel pressured into it by their family and friends. While their loved ones might mean well, it is a personal decision that must be considered carefully. If you think you or a partner might have hearing loss, a hearing test is the first step to finding treatment. From there, you can discuss the benefits of hearing aids.

How Hearing Aids Help Your Relationship

For many people, especially those who have lost their hearing over time, verbal communication is something they long for. Hearing aids can give them a chance to carry on a conversation like before, albeit with some differences. Hearing technology has improved tremendously over the past two decades, and hearing aids now offer the most natural experience yet.

Verbal conversation is the fastest and most efficient form of communication, and it’s preferred by many people. Those with hard-of-hearing family members report that they want to carry on a conversation, but worry that they will be misunderstood, or accidentally cause anxiety for their loved ones. While hearing aids might require an adjustment period, many wearers report feeling less lonely and more social after fitting. While many people have reservations about hearing aids, they are worth a shot for anyone who wishes to improve their social experience.

If you’re looking for more articles on living with hearing loss, Signia puts out new information every week. Whether you have hearing loss or not, these articles can help you get a better understanding of hearing aids, how to care for your ears, and how to deal with hearing loss of all kinds. To stay informed, subscribe to the Signia newsletter for occasional updates.