Undoubtedly, it’s no mystery that untreated hearing loss can affect relationships. Communication is at the root of all great relationships. Personal to professional and even incidental relationships, they all rely on communication to help them succeed. So the question is — how does untreated hearing loss affect relationships?
It actually depends on who you ask: the person with the hearing loss or their friends and family.
Put yourself in their ears
If you have normal hearing, try to put yourself in the shoes - or ears - of someone with hearing loss. Conduct your own experiment by wearing some foam earplugs constantly for three days (not while you sleep). How many times did you ask someone to repeat what they said or to speak a little louder? For those with hearing loss, there is often a sense of embarrassment or sheepishness constantly asking those around you to speak up or repeat themselves. Add in a noisy environment on top of that and it can make following conversations impossible.
Frustration can lead to isolation
Many people with untreated hearing loss may find themselves thinking “I wish I could just disappear into the background and not have to be at the forefront of a conversation where I’d have to depend on my hearing ability.” Disappearing into the background might be fine in certain situations, but it’s an uncommon wish with friends and loved ones. A mild hearing loss left untreated can have a resounding effect those with normal hearing may not realize.
It takes two to make a relationship work
So what is the solution to maintaining strong relationships? All parties involved need to put in some work!
For family and friends, a conscious effort needs to be made to adapt the way we communicate. Simple changes will help a great deal, like looking right at the person when talking to them, making sure to get their attention if we’re trying to change the subject of a conversation or ask them something important, and most importantly, exercising patience and understanding.
As for the person with hearing loss? It’s imperative that you speak up for what you need, be aware that frustrations may arise (but not take it personally), and know there are proven practices to treat and improve your hearing. Begin by consulting with a reputable hearing healthcare professional (click here to find one near you).
We’ll end this article with a relevant quote from Helen Keller: “Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.”