Hearing loss, if left untreated, can harm your most important relationships. If you believe you are the only one affected by your hearing loss, please reconsider. When your loved ones have to repeat themselves time after time, they may share in your frustration. Hearing loss can make you withdrawn and paint an image of you as distant in your relationships. People in relationships where one or more people have a hearing loss have reported frustration, a sense of isolation, and resentment toward their partner when hearing loss is left untreated. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, approximately 48 million Americans (20 percent) report some degree of hearing loss. Of the 28.8 million Americans (age 20-69) who could benefit from wearing hearing aids, fewer than 16 percent have ever used them.

The Impact of Hearing Loss Relationships

A 2009 British study surveyed 1,500 people with hearing loss. 44 percent surveyed reported that their hearing loss had caused their relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners to suffer. The study found that untreated hearing loss can decrease quality communication, provoke arguments between partners, reduce the couple’s ability to enjoy favorite pastimes, strain a couple financially, cause resentment, and decrease intimate conversation and very needed casual humor. It can lead to extreme loneliness, isolation, and breakdown of invaluable relationships.

What You Can Do

The number of American adults (ages 20 or older) with hearing loss is only expected to increase by 30 million (8 percent) from 2020 to 2060. Suppose you are currently experiencing the impact of hearing loss personally or with a loved one. In that case, you could soon experience the adverse effects of hearing loss on your relationships.

If this sounds like you, there are a number of things you can do to mitigate the situation.

1. Be Compassionate

Even though dealing with a hearing loss can be frustrating, it is essential to exercise compassion. Imagine what it would be like to be in your partner’s experience. It may feel as if you’re the only one struggling, but it affects everyone around you. If you refuse to seek treatment, you are putting your relationships at risk.

If your partner suffers from hearing loss, try wearing earplugs for a day to put yourself in their shoes. It is difficult to hear another person speak, but you won’t be able to enjoy sounds in the same way. Particularly in conversation, hearing loss doesn’t just reduce volume but dampens details. Just imagine how frustrating it can be when you can’t take your earplugs out. Practicing compassion can de-escalate conflict to a place where a resolution can begin to be found.

2. Foster Independence

If your partner suffers from hearing loss, you may have been tempted at one time or another to “help” them by giving in to their requests. While this may seem like helping, it actually enables your partner not to get the treatment they desperately need. Perhaps you have found yourself constantly repeating yourself, making phone calls for your partner, allowing your partner to blast the television volume, or agreeing that you are the one mumbling rather than pointing out that they need treatment. Often you may find yourself agreeing to stay in with your partner to avoid social engagements rather than making them deal with the fact that their hearing loss has gotten so acute that they can no longer socialize.

If you believe these are ways of caring for your partner, they most certainly are not. Complicit behavior in masking your partner’s desire to avoid hearing loss creates a lack of independence in your loved one. In your quest to help the person you love, you may actually be hurting them by promoting co-dependence. In fact, it may cause your loved one to delay seeking out much-needed treatment.

3. Encourage hearing treatment

Fortunately, there are beneficial treatments for people suffering from hearing loss. Hearing aids are the most popular solution for hearing loss and can often drastically improve both partners’ quality of life.

Don’t let the stigma of hearing loss keep you from the closest relationships in your life. Hearing aids have been correlated with improved relationships, enhanced communication, and better social engagement. If you are experiencing hearing loss, contact us to set up a hearing test and start healing your most cherished relationships!