Love and Hearing Loss: Communication Strategies for Couples

Senior couple with hearing loss drinking morning coffee together

Hearing loss can affect many aspects of your day-to-day life. Your pastimes, your professional life, and even your love life can be impacted by hearing loss, for instance. Communication can become tense for couples who are dealing with hearing loss. This can cause increased tension, more disputes, and even the development of animosity. If ignored, in other words, hearing loss can have a significantly negative effect on your relationship.

So, how does hearing loss effect relationships? These challenges arise, in part, because people are often not aware that they even have hearing loss. Hearing loss typically is, after all, a slowly advancing condition. Consequently, you (and your partner) might not recognize that hearing loss is the underlying cause of your communication problems. This can result in both partners feeling alienated and can make it difficult to find practical solutions.

Often, a diagnosis of hearing loss along with helpful strategies from a hearing specialist can help couples begin communicating again, and improve their relationships.

Can relationships be affected by hearing loss?

When hearing loss is in the early stages, it can be hard to identify. Couples can have considerable misunderstandings because of this. Consequently, there are a few common problems that develop:

  • Intimacy may suffer: In many relationships, communication is the cornerstone of intimacy. And when that communication breaks down, all parties might feel more distant from each other. As a result, hearing loss may introduce friction throughout the relationship, ultimately causing more frustration and tension.
  • Arguments: It’s not unusual for arguments to take place in a relationship, at least, sometimes. But when hearing loss is present, those arguments can be even more frustrating. For some couples, arguments will ignite more often because of an increase in misunderstandings. For others, an increase in arguments could be a consequence of changes in behavior (for example, increasing the volume on the television to painful levels).
  • Couples frequently confuse hearing loss for “selective hearing”: Selective hearing is what occurs when someone hears “we’re having cake for dessert” very distinctly, but somehow doesn’t hear “we need to take out the trash before we eat”. In some cases, selective hearing is totally unintentional, and in others, it can be a conscious decision. One of the most frequent effects of hearing loss on a spouse is that they might begin to miss words or specific phrases will seem garbled. This can often be mistaken for “selective hearing,” causing resentment and tension in the relationship.
  • Feeling ignored: When somebody doesn’t respond to what you say, you’re likely to feel dismissed. When one of the partners has hearing loss but is unaware of it, this can frequently happen. Feeling like your partner is not paying attention to you is not good for long-term relationship health.

These problems will frequently begin before anybody is diagnosed with hearing loss. Feelings of resentment might be worse when parties don’t know hearing loss is the core issue (or when the partner with hearing loss insists on dismissing their symptoms).

Living with somebody who is dealing with loss of hearing

If hearing loss can cause so much conflict in a relationship, how do you live with someone who has hearing loss? This will only be an issue for couples who aren’t willing to establish new communication strategies. Some of those strategies include the following:

  • Try to talk face-to-face as often as possible: Communicating face-to-face can supply a wealth of visual cues for somebody with hearing loss. Your partner will be able to read facial cues and body language. And with increased eye contact it will be easier to maintain concentration. This provides your partner with more information to process, and that usually makes it easier to understand your intent.
  • When you repeat what you said, try making use of different words: When your partner doesn’t hear what you said, you will normally try repeating yourself. But try changing the words you use rather than using the same words. Hearing loss can affect some frequencies of speech more than others, which means certain words might be harder to understand (while others are easier). Changing your word choice can help reinforce your message.
  • Help your partner get used to their hearing aids: Perhaps you could do things like taking over trips to the grocery store or other chores that cause your partner stress. There also might be ways you can help your partner get accustomed to their hearing aids and we can assist you with that.
  • Encourage your partner to come in for a hearing exam: Your partner’s hearing loss can be managed with our help. When hearing loss is under control, communication is generally more effective (and many other areas of tension may recede also). Additionally, treating hearing loss is a safety concern: hearing loss can impact your ability to hear the telephone, smoke detectors and fire alarms, and the doorbell. You might also fail to hear oncoming traffic. We can help your partner better regulate any of these potential concerns.
  • Patience: When you recognize that your partner has hearing loss, patience is particularly important. You may have to repeat yourself more often or vary the volume of your voice. It may also be necessary to talk in a slower cadence. This kind of patience can be a challenge, but it can also dramatically improve the effectiveness of your communication.

After you get diagnosed, what happens next?

Hearing assessments are typically non-invasive and really simple. In most instances, people who are tested will do little more than wear specialized headphones and raise a hand when they hear a sound. You will be better able to regulate your symptoms and your relationships after you get a diagnosis.

Take the hearing loss related tension out of your relationship by encouraging your partner to come see us for a hearing assessment.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.