How Untreated Hearing Loss Interferes with Your Relationships

How Untreated Hearing Loss Interferes with Your Relationships

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss by Kim Greive

Kim Greive

Communication is integral to how we live our lives. Effective communication is necessary for healthy relationships, work, social interactions, and daily activities. A major impact of untreated hearing loss is strained communication. Hearing loss, the third most common chronic medical condition that older adults experience, reduces a person’s ability to hear and process sound. This produces a range of symptoms that make it difficult to engage in conversation and communicate with ease. This can take a toll on all aspects of life including interfering with your relationships. 

Impact of Strained Communication on Relationships

Extensive research shows that untreated hearing loss adversely impacts relationships, causing strain and stress. This includes relationships with friends, family, and partners which suffer from the numerous communication challenges that hearing loss creates. Conversations are difficult to navigate while experiencing hearing loss symptoms: 

  • Tinnitus: a buzzing or ringing like noise in one or both ears
  • Sounds are slurred or muffled, making it difficult to distinguish words
  • Difficulty hearing in environments with background noise
  • Asking others to repeat themselves, speak loudly, and/or slowly
  • Hearing more clearly in one ear compared to the other 
  • Needing to increase the volume on electronic devices 

These symptoms prevent people from hearing clearly and being able to communicate effectively. This can lead to having conversations with others where the person with hearing loss isn’t quite following along or is missing parts of the conversation. This makes it hard to have discussions and spend quality time which leads to frustration, distance, and stress. A few other ways that relationships are strained are: 

  • shared activities reduce (watching TV together for example)
  • less time spent having intimate conversations, joking with others 
  • withdrawal from social activities 
  • less time actually communicating, conversations become basic

Lack of (quality and consistent) communication can change relationship dynamics and leave people feeling like their needs are not being met. This can worsen if hearing loss remains untreated and symptoms persist which can easily worsen impairment, deepening communication issues. 

How to Discuss Hearing Loss

Having someone in your life with hearing loss who is not actively seeking treatment can be difficult. Trying to remain supportive, understanding, and encouraging is critical for both your relationship and their health. Taking the time to have a thoughtful conversation with them about their hearing loss is a great way to advocate for treatment. A few useful ways to engage this conversation includes: 

  • Choose the right time and setting: be sure to set aside enough time for this conversation. You also want to make sure that you are in a comfortable setting that is familiar and easier to hear in. Avoid public places that are noisy and distracting. 
  • Be specific about how your relationship is being impacted: it is important for you to share how their untreated hearing loss is directly impacting you and your relationship. Share specific examples, how you feel, and how things have changed. 
  • Share concerns about their health: untreated hearing loss can contribute to the development of other medical conditions. It would be useful to do some quick research and write down a few notes if that would be helpful for you. They may not be completely aware of all the ways in which untreated hearing loss can impact their health so sharing this can illuminate its wide-ranging effects. 
  • Offer to have your hearing tested: a great way to encourage them to schedule an appointment for a hearing test is to offer to have your hearing tested too! This could be a great bonding activity and could make them feel more comfortable pursuing treatment.   

Your support is invaluable. Hearing loss can already be isolating and stressful so having your support and encouragement is incredibly helpful. This is a journey and you can play an active role that helps your loved one prioritize their hearing health. Remind them of the countless benefits of treating hearing loss: enhanced communication, improved social life, strengthened relationships etc. 

Treatment also boosts confidence and independence as people can navigate daily life with greater control, awareness, and ease. Encourage them to commit to the first step which is scheduling an appointment for their hearing test.