Hearing loss is a condition that affects friendships, families, and married couples. As a hearing loss progresses, friends and family can become a human hearing aid, relaying conversations and repeating frequently. Relationships can become strained. It’s important that we are patient with each other and understand this disability. Getting help for a hearing loss is a benefit to all people involved. Advances in technology have allowed hearing devices to become smaller and more effective and can be prescription-fit to an individual’s hearing problem. If hearing loss changes or progress, hearing devices can be re-programmed to compensate.
If hearing loss goes uncorrected, conversations can become limited over time, with very short answers losing richness, flow, and even humor. A loss of intimacy begins to occur, and there can be a sense of loneliness for partners in a marriage.
The result to the hearing impaired person? Withdrawal: They simply begin to stop putting themselves in situations where it’s difficult to hear and understand. In other words, they can stop participating in their life. Perhaps they no longer want to spend time with the grandchildren (their voices can be challenging to understand). People with a hearing loss can feel as if they are a burden to their spouse and may feel distant and withdrawn in social and listening situations, which they begin to dread.
There are some simple steps to take, to ease the hearing challenges and help loved ones to communicate:
• Be open. Tell people you have a hearing loss. This will often get an immediate understanding from people in a conversation.
• Ask people to speak directly to you; keep your eyes on the person speaking! We communicate with body language as well as non-verbal clues.
• Remind your spouse not to talk to you from another room, as we need (even those with normal hearing) the non-verbals.
• If you have Hearing Instruments, just like your glasses, wear them!
The more severe the hearing loss, the more important it is to use these listening tools. Be patient with your loved one, as the hearing loss occurs slowly through time and is a health condition that is too often ignored. Encourage your spouse to contact Dr. Dena and have a hearing examination once a year. As with your vision, your hearing continues to change over time, and having it tested is the first step to understanding and if necessary, getting help for that loss.
The longer a person waits before getting help for a hearing loss, the harder it is to relearn how to hear. The brain, where sound is processed, forgets certain sounds overtime, and must relearn how to hear them. An example of this is background noise, such as the spinning of a fan, is normally tuned out for individuals with normal hearing. New hearing aid wearers must retrain the portion of their brain that interprets sounds, which requires time and effort.
Contact Peninsula Hearing Center for more information.