How hearing loss affects a relationship?
Hearing Aids are Intimacy Aids
Whether it is your own or your partner’s, living with hearing loss can lead to some humorous situations, when misunderstandings occur in a light-hearted sense.
“Let’s go ride our bikes,” she says.
He responds with, “Fly our kites? We don’t have any kites.”
“No,” she says. “Ride our bikes! B-I-K-E-S Bikes!”
“Oh!” he says. “Ride to the store to buy some kites to fly. That’s a good idea!”
But, when misunderstandings begin to occur on a regular basis, in situations ranging from silly to serious, from light-hearted to intimate, the humor begins to wear thin. When you’re used to traveling through life with your partner, tossing comments, jokes and tender, whispered nothings back and forth on the fly, the discovery that communication is getting harder puts a strain on both sides of your relationship.
Hearing Loss Affecting Relationships
What was once natural, fun and easy becomes tedious. And the added work may lead to dwindling communication, which may lead to dwindling intimacy. But that’s not all.
Since social interaction via speech is part of the core of just about every relationship, the blame for any communication failure is often passed onto “the other person.” Either someone’s not speaking loud enough, or someone’s not listening hard enough. One person in the relationship may feel stuck doing all the communication chores, such as making phone calls and translating what other people say, while the other may feel isolated from social situations, even while standing in the middle of them.
Indeed, as hearing loss increases, feelings of loneliness and isolation increase . Almost a quarter of women with hearing loss say that they feel socially isolated, and the same is true of most men who suffer from hearing loss . People who feel isolated and lonely are over three times more likely to also feel depressed and are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia .
How to Better Communicate With Your Partner with Hearing Aids
So, how do you ease the stress and avoid the resentment and embarrassment of dealing with hearing loss?
As with anything, in any relationship, the first and most important trick is to be patient. Reacting to the need to repeat yourself, or to ask for repeated words, by spitting vitriol will accomplish nothing. Patience will earn you both the respect and love you deserve.
When hearing loss begins to set in, the first sounds the ears miss are the soft consonants, like f, h, s and t. Yet, most people just speak louder. Instead of raising the volume of the vowels, try emphasizing the consonants more, or gently remind your partner to do so.
Before speaking, get your partner’s attention, or ask your partner to get your attention, beforehand. In many instances, that’s all it will take to avoid unnecessary repetition.
Translation. Unfamiliar voices are the worst enemies of a hearing impairment. You (or your partner) provide a familiar voice, which is easy to understand. Sometimes, translating an unfamiliar voice with a familiar one is the most efficient way to communicate. (But don’t answer questions. Translate, but make your partner respond!)
At the same time, schedule an ear exam or a hearing test, to see what’s happening where it counts, in the ears. If it’s a simple build-up of ear wax, removing it could solve the problem. If not, then being fitted for hearing aids is the best solution.
How Hearing Aids Can Help
Modern hearing aids offer sound quality that’s more natural than was ever possible, before. They can cancel out background noise, so concentrating on a single speaker is easy, even in a crowded room. They can connect to smartphones, so taking phone calls is just as easy as talking to someone in person. Plus, they’re discreet, so they’re not embarrassing to wear. In many ways, hearing aids work better than our regular, old-fashioned ears.
But, of course, none of those are the reasons why you or your partner should think about a hearing test or being fitted for hearing aids. The only reason is so that you and your partner can easily share those comments, jokes and tender, whispered nothings once again.
The following are from the presentation, “Boosting Emotional Well Being in Older Adults: The Role of Hearing Health Care,” Barbara E. Weinstein, PhD, CCC-A, ASHA-F
 Slide 30, Loneliness and Age Related Hearing Loss (Sung, et al., 2015, 2017)
 Slide 27, Ramage Morin (2016) Canadian Community Health Survey
 Slide 18, THE HEALTH RELATED CONSEQUENCES OF SI – UK (Griffiths)