It is well publicised that hearing loss can increase the risk of depression, memory loss and dementia. What few of us consider is the impact that hearing loss can have on our significant others. Consider the effects that even mild hearing loss has on a relationship.
Most of us would agree that the key to a good relationship is communications. So, it would seem natural that when the quality of these communications is affected, so too would the quality of the relationship. But how does this happen?
The latest scientific studies have found that even the smallest communications, particularly those normally deemed as unimportant, actually build understanding and connection between partners. Those small digressions, including jokes and minor observations, bring about companionship and a truly shared experience of life.
When a spouse says, “Did you see that?” and has to repeat it again and again, they will eventually reach, “Don’t worry, it was nothing”. Conversations can become limited over time, with abrupt responses, losing the richness, flow and humour. As communication breaks down, frustration creeps in. That frustration can lead to resentment, which leads to a further breakdown in communication and intimacy. The result? A sense of loneliness and isolation for both partners.
So what techniques can you use to improve your communications?
Here are a few simple strategies we have found can improve the communication between those with hearing loss and their significant others:
- Facing each other as you talk helps improve your ability to hear the words, but equally importantly pick up the non-verbal cues such as body language, tone and facial expressions.
- Making sure you have good lighting, so you can see the other person’s face, and asking them to talk slowly and distinctly.
- Creating an environment that makes it easier to hear. For example,
- during a conversation, turn off distractions such as the TV or radio.
- In restaurants sitting away from the front door and kitchen, preferably sitting in a corner
- In the home closing doors, turning off radios and televisions when not in use
- Changing old habits that can interfere with hearing, such as calling to a spouse from another room, is also important.
- When you have missed a keyword or phrase, try to request the missing information in a way that involves minimum disruption to the flow of the ongoing conversation, such as:
- Repeating back
- Asking specific questions that indicate what was heard
- Repeating back or rephrasing what you thought you heard
- Asking the talker to say the last sentence in one or two different ways
- Seriously consider getting assistance. Hearing aids are smaller, smarter and better than ever before, and today use sophisticated digital technology which makes them more effective and personal than ever before.
The longer people go without getting help for their hearing loss, the harder it is for them to relearn how to hear. The brain, where the sound is processed has forgotten certain sounds overtime and must relearn how to hear. If you or someone you know is suffering hearing loss, encourage them to take action today. If they won’t do it for themselves, perhaps they’ll do it for someone they love.