People with hearing loss often feel isolated and alone, believing they are the only ones affected by their impairment. While it’s natural to feel overwhelmed, your impairment has an impact on many others close to you. Relationships with family and friends are almost always affected – and rarely in a positive manner.
Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss
There are an estimated 48 million Americans experiencing hearing loss. Unfortunately, only 1 in 4 people who would benefit from hearing aids actually wears them. There are numerous risks associated with untreated hearing loss, from the physical and psychological to social. For the 75 percent of individuals who haven’t sought treatment for their hearing loss, those risks include strained personal relationships.
Think about it: communication is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. When a hearing loss prevents you from communicating effectively, those little bumps in the road that affect every relationship from time to time are going to be magnified. It’s like a domino effect; poor communication leads to frustration and resentment, which creates a further breakdown in communication and a lack of intimacy that affects both partners.
A 2009 British study illustrates these effects. Of 1,500 people with hearing loss surveyed, 44 percent reported that hearing loss had caused relationships with a spouse, family member or friend to suffer. 34 percent of respondents blamed hearing loss and the resulting communication difficulties for the disintegration of a relationship.
Marriage is often the relationship that suffers most deeply. A 2007 survey published in the ASHA Leader found that 35 percent of respondents said the relationship with their spouse was the one most likely to suffer the negative consequences of hearing loss. Granted, there were a few positives; many hearing-impaired individuals enjoyed the emotional support provided by their partners. Unfortunately, even the most caring spouses have a hard time understanding the full effects of hearing loss. There’s a popular phrase that goes, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” Significant others take heed: don’t judge a man (or woman) until you’ve lived with the daily challenges brought about by their hearing loss.
The poor communication associated with hearing loss has a snowball effect, causing tension in the relationship and leading to negative emotions such as:
- Withdrawal/isolation from social activities
- Decrease in intimacy and shared activities
- Loss of companionship
The easiest way to prevent a breakdown in communication and save your relationship is to meet with an audiologist, who will come up with a treatment solution. For most people, that means wearing hearing aids. Not only have they been shown time and again to improve your quality of life; they will also help promote better relationships. Don’t wait until it’s too late; make that appointment today!