People are social by nature. Even if we’re not always the most talkative person in the room (but especially if we are), the time we spend with others is important for us to feel our best. When we feel understood, or feel like we understand someone else, we feel aligned with ourselves and others. Our relationships are the foundation of our humanity, and our ability to participate in them is critical to our health and well-being.
Hearing loss is a communication disorder. When we can’t hear what other people are saying, we experience a barrier to the connections that we crave. Similarly, when others can’t feel understood by us, it can make them feel cut off. Hearing loss doesn’t just impact the person who has hearing loss, but also has an effect on the important people around them.
Hearing Loss Puts Stress on a Couple
Especially in a marriage or partnership, we rely on each other to communicate on a daily basis. Qualitative research on couples in which one partner has hearing loss has found that hearing loss puts stress on both parties. Couples report feeling the loss of spontaneity, small talk, and shared observations when one person has hearing loss.
That’s because relationships are not just made of the big stuff! It might still be possible to make plans and talk about everything that “needs” to be talked about, but the health of our relationships depends on the little moments of connection we have throughout the day. We need to be able to talk freely and easily, even about things that “don’t matter,” in order to maintain our intimacy.
When we try to communicate something and we’re not heard or understood, it’s frustrating. If this happens a lot, resentments can start to build. Even in a relationship where hearing loss is understood to be the root of the problem, we can’t always keep that at the front of our minds, and frustration is bound to boil over into arguments and/or leave both partners feeling lonely and isolated.
Supportive Partners Still Have Difficulty
Action on Hearing Loss interviewed 23 couples to get a sense of how hearing loss might affect them, and how they respond to it. The interviewers found that even among couples where the hearing partner was very supportive, they still failed to truly understand their partner’s experience of hearing loss.
Hearing loss is exhausting, and tiring earlier in a social engagement is par for the course. Background sound makes it even harder to listen, and “listening fatigue” from a busy evening can make it harder to hear even when the background noise is gone. Hearing partners frequently fail to understand that being able to hear in one situation doesn’t mean that it will work as easily the next.
Hearing Aids Can Help
A good set of hearing aids can drastically improve communication between partners, not to mention everyone else we come across. They can restore the sense that we are sharing our lives with someone, rather than struggling to understand or be understood. They reduce incidences of miscommunication, which can take a lot of the frustration out of our day to day lives.
If talking to one another has been difficult, a set of hearing aids will help you restore your ability to carry on a real conversation together. Hearing loss tends to make us want to withdraw and avoid the kinds of conversations where we will have to listen at length. Because hearing loss makes it so difficult to understand another person, a lot of our mental energy gets used up simply trying to figure out what is being said, and we don’t have a lot left over to actually think about it and formulate responses. With hearing aids, you’ll be able to communicate as freely as ever.
Ultimately, hearing aids are about maintaining our connections to other people. In our closest relationships, a problem with our connection is more noticeable than anywhere else. By treating hearing loss, you make it possible for your partner and you to grow your connection. You’ll be able to tune in more easily, and take notice of what’s going on with one another. Hearing loss can be upsetting, but when you have a good set of hearing aids you no longer need to let it dictate the quality of your relationships.