Untreated hearing loss takes a toll on relationships
Untreated hearing loss does not only affect an individual's quality of life – it also has an impact on his or her relationships, especially the most important ones. This is because hearing loss affects one's ability to communicate, and by definition, communication involves a least one other person. While managing hearing loss can be challenging, there are many ways to do it, and harnessing the various hearing loss solutions available to you can improve relationships and, ultimately, your level of happiness and satisfaction with life.
But first, it's important to understand how untreated hearing loss can impact your relationships:
Untreated hearing loss can impact the whole family
Untreated hearing loss can also affect relationships with children. When kids are small, it could potentially be a dangerous situation if you can't hear their cries. As children are older and begin talking, it can be difficult to engage and understand them, and young kids might think you don't care or aren't interested in what they have to say. Needless to say, this can be emotionally difficult for the entire family. Even with hearing loss solutions, it can still be challenging. For example, as Shanna Groves says in her blog – Lipreading Mom – even with hearing aids, she still must often ask her children to repeat what they said.
Untreated hearing loss can also emotionally impact adult children, especially those who have encouraged their parents to get help.
Romantic relationships are dependent upon emotional, verbal and physical connections. For people who are hard of hearing and their significant others, hearing loss can be a barrier to all of these things. In a 2007 article from The ASHA Leader, audiologist and Professor Patricia Chute talked about some of the confusion involved in romantic relationships with hearing loss:
"All too often spouses blame each other's ability to listen when in fact it is truly a hearing problem that is chipping away at their ability to communicate," Chute said.
And a survey by Cochlear Americas that same year revealed that the relationship people with hearing loss cited as most likely to suffer was that with their romantic partner – a whopping 35 percent said romantic relationships trumped others in communication difficulties. When asked about their feelings when conversing with someone who appeared not to be listening because of hearing loss, 54 percent of people said they felt frustrated, 32 percent felt annoyed, 23 percent were sad and 18 percent felt ignored.
It's not hard to imagine that relationships with significant others suffer the most; after all, in today's busy world of work, volunteer activities and raising children or grandchildren, romantic relationships often thrive on finding brief, spontaneous and meaningful moments to connect emotionally. But these opportunities for connection are often unscripted. However, with untreated hearing loss, romance and spontaneity often have to be removed from the factor as cues are missed and communication must be planned.
Social relationships also suffer with untreated hearing loss. For example, if friends don't realize you have hearing loss, they may think you are a poor listener or don't really care about them. For example, if you have a phone call with your best friend and she tells you when everyone is getting together for her birthday celebration, but your hearing loss causes you to hear the wrong time or date, she may think you just didn't care to show up. She might not call you again, and your feelings may be hurt. This communication mix-up could cause you to withdraw from others in the future, leading to isolation and potentially depression.
Untreated hearing loss can put a strain on work relations, much for the same reasons outlined above: Communication is at the heart of working with colleagues. Even in a work environment where your role is not collaborative, your hearing loss might cause you to miss something important. Luckily, many things are done via email, but work meetings may be especially tough when several people are talking at once. For example, you may miss your boss's cue to give your input, or you may not be able to participate fully in a meeting when more than one person is talking at a time. Thus, colleagues may think you are ignoring them or are not willing to work hard and contribute.