Untreated Hearing Loss Harms Your Relationships

Untreated Hearing Loss Harms Your Relationships
Dr. Steinberg
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You Are Your Five Senses

If you are blessed with normal health, you are lucky enough to take your five senses for granted. You trust them to ground you in reality. You depend on them for the essentials of your safety immediately and you turn to them for your deepest pleasures. 

You also depend on them to connect with others and it is our relationships with others that create our most powerful feelings of security and joy.

Hearing Loss Strains Relationships

Hearing loss will wreak havoc on all your relationships. Everyday communication with family and friends will become clumsy and strained. Breakdowns in communication cause deep stress and frustration. Breakdowns in communication prohibit the simple spontaneity that feeling present in the moment relies on so deeply. Topics of great consequence and simple chatter will both be made that much more difficult, making everyone involved feel isolated. No matter how healthy and strong a relationship may have been, such stress creates unnecessary fatigue. 

It can be enough work already simply remaining attentive to the needs of your loved ones. When your relationship is forced to change in all kinds of small ways that neither of you has chosen this creates a great strain. In fact, hearing loss most often comes on so incredibly gradually, it is very likely that neither of you will even know how to attribute the reasons for these changes. You most likely may not even recognize your own hearing loss. Consider this for a moment. 

With all this extra effort required, the nature of your conversations will change. The quality of your conversations will change. The trust and intimacy of your relationship will change. The nuanced timing of humor and the subtleties of shared secrets are the foundations of any relationship and these are exactly what is threatened most directly by untreated hearing loss.    

You May Need to Take Action on a Loved One’s Behalf

As mentioned above, hearing loss most often comes on so gradually over the course of so many years, it is literally impossible for someone to know that it has happened to them. Do you notice the difference in the length of your hair one day to the next? Of course not. But eventually you can tell that your hair has hit your shoulders. The change is gradual, but eventually you can feel the change. You see and feel your hair hit your shoulders. 

But your hearing is different. You cannot see the difference in your hearing. You can see that you used to turn the volume up to seven and incrementally over a very long time you have started turning it up to eight for the same effect. But that incremental change is as slow as the growth of your hair. You will not recognize it. 

Your hearing loss will be more apparent to others than yourself. And similarly, the hearing loss that someone else suffers will be more apparent to you than it is to them. You will see the symptoms. They complain that you keep mumbling. They ask you to repeat yourself. They keep the television at an uncomfortably loud volume. You might be the one who has no choice, if you love someone, than to have a potentially awkward conversation with them. 

There should be no more stigma attached to hearing loss than to wearing glasses, so you should not hesitate to intervene. Parents understand the risks it poses to the child and instinctively know to intervene quickly as possible. Why should it be any different for you intervening with someone older?  

Find a relaxed time and comfortable place to talk frankly. Adopt a firm, but affectionate tone and be careful that your word choices can not be taken as patronizing. Explain that the relationship means a lot to you and how hearing loss is affecting it. Use specific examples that they will remember. Be patient and calm.

Left untreated, hearing loss can lead to social withdrawal, loneliness, depression, frustration, resentment, impatience and even cognitive decline. 

Take action today. Make an appointment for a hearing exam for yourself and invite your loved one to join you. Doing it together will normalize it and minimize the stress. And a trained professional’s objective assessment will determine the best course of action.