Toll-Free: 1 (888) 457-3453 Facebook Icon Link

Talking to loved ones about their hearing loss

Couple sitting on couch

In our surveying of clients, when asked what made them get hearing aids, the majority said they decided it was time to do something about their hearing. What helped them come to that conclusion? For most, it was influence from family and friends.

Loved one’s hearing loss takes you along too

People with hearing loss can easily think they’re the only ones suffering, that friends and family aren’t impacted by them ignoring their hearing loss. That’s really not true.

Research has shown the stress, anxiety, frustration, embarrassment are all alive and well in the Communication Partner (CP), that person living and interacting with the person with hearing loss. So much so the World Health Organization has recognized being a partner or spouse of a person with hearing loss as a third-party disability.

The day-to-day experience of living with someone ignoring their hearing loss takes its toll on the Communication Partner personally but also on the relationship overall. Around half the people with untreated hearing loss will experience relationship breakdown and 1/3 lose touch with family and friends.

Motivating someone with hearing loss to get a hearing test

Talking with your spouse or partner about hearing loss can be a sensitive subject. They could get defensive or downright angry if they feel criticized. It’s possible they believe hearing loss is only an old person’s condition and it can be hard to admit one is getting on in years. (By the way, hearing loss has many causes unrelated to aging like loud noise exposure, illness, medications or genetics.)

Here are some ideas to use when you want to influence your partner or spouse to get their hearing checked:

  1. Have the conversation when things are calm and relaxed. Talking about hearing loss when someone is already upset or in the middle of a conflict can make them dig in their heels and refuse to consider a hearing test. If you can stay calm and quiet during a planned conversation about possible hearing loss, there may be more willingness to listen.
  2. Start the conversation from a place of caring. Try including thoughts about the wider world in your conversation, rather than making it solely about the person with hearing loss:
    1. “Can I share some of the things I’ve learned in reading about health? I’m a bit concerned.” The risks of untreated hearing loss on many aspects of health and wellness are well documented. By talking about both yourself and your spouse or partner from a health perspective, if may feel a bit less one-sided.
    2. “I’m worried about our relationship. Can we talk?” This is very much about you both and the stress and strain on the relationship. Share how it makes you feel when you talk to them and they don’t respond. Talk about how misunderstandings are happening more often and maybe a hearing test would be good. Wrap it up in your care for the relationship and how important the relationship is to you.
    3. “Let’s go together and get our hearing checked.” This can take the conversation away from feeling accusatory or focused only on the person with hearing loss. By offering to share the experience of the hearing test and results, you’re changing it from a blame-game to one you’ll share with each other.
    4. “Friends and family are missing how you used to be. How do we help them understand?” By moving this from being ‘what’s wrong with you’ into how you can help others understand, you open the door for your spouse or partner to share how they’re experiencing their world and their expectations of how others should interact within it.
  3. Be ready to stay positive. If you can stay in with a positive tone of voice and body language, there’s more chance the spouse or partner will keep listening.
  4. Have specific examples. Make notes when you see something that suggests hearing loss. Describe a specific time and place where someone else they care about was misunderstood or left unanswered and how it made that person feel. Sharing how you’re feeling when it happens to you can demonstrate it’s not just the one time.
  5. Be understanding about their hesitance. Some people just don’t like tests. Others have had bad experiences when they’ve had medical tests. The hesitance could be coming from many places and understanding their hesitance is another way to be supportive. Ask if they can explain why they’re hesitant.

Managing just fine – it’s not just them being stubborn

About 30% of the people we see who leave without treating their hearing loss tell us, “I don’t need hearing aids; I’m managing just fine!”

Would you be surprised to know some of the reason they feel they’re ‘managing just fine’ is because their partner or spouse is protecting them, translating for them, making excuses for them, and avoiding talking about hearing loss?

Consideration of getting a hearing test, and getting hearing aids if a loss is uncovered, might move forward more effectively when there are opportunities for the person with hearing loss to get an unvarnished experience of how the world around them is communicating.

  • Note how often you have to repeat something before it is understood. Keep a daily ‘hearing health’ diary, noting what was happening and how many times it was repeated.
  • Stop raising your voice to be heard. Shouting is a different physical experience for your body. Your heart rate and blood pressure increase as your brain connects shouting to the fight or flight response. Your cardiac health will thank you for not raising your voice to be heard.
  • Don’t be the messenger of other people’s communication. On top of the challenge of being in the middle, there’s risk the message isn’t relayed as accurately as when it’s received firsthand.

If you are being your spouse’s or partner’s ears, you aren’t helping them. You’re making it easier for them to think there’s no reason to seek a hearing test or treatment.

When you love someone, it’s natural to want to protect them. Ask yourself if you are actually protecting them when you consider the other health risks associated with untreated hearing loss.

An important note perhaps to share is hearing loss, and the behaviours that go with it, are way more noticeable than hearing aids.

What’s the real reason?

Finding out the real reason someone won’t consider getting a hearing test or hearing aids when a loss has been detected can make all the difference. If the person with hearing loss isn’t comfortable talking to their Communication Partner about health issues, perhaps it’s time to ask for help from others who are close to them.

Sometimes it’s a person outside the immediate home – a favourite nephew, a hunting buddy, a pastor – who can uncover what’s really creating the resistance.

It doesn’t hurt to ask for help. If others are close to your spouse or partner, they’ll have experienced the hearing loss symptoms and perhaps even contributed to the “I’m managing just fine” by protecting, translating and making excuses.

Some reasons holding back the person with hearing loss may include stubbornness, unwillingness to accept aging, preconceived notions about hearing aids, denial that there’s a problem or fear.

Hearing tests are free

Hearing tests are painless and at Hear Well Be Well are free. Getting a hearing test rather than guessing if it’s hearing loss or something else going on could be good for your relationship. Just knowing for sure can change the conversation.

Book a hearing test for you and your spouse today.