If you have hearing loss, you may feel like your family members don’t understand your hearing challenges. You may feel that they never will understand your challenges unless they experience the same challenges for themselves. However, there is more to the story. While you certainly face challenges due to hearing loss, so do your partner and other family members. Here are a few insights into what both parties may be thinking.
- They notice your hearing loss even when you don’t acknowledge it.
Many people experience hearing loss for years before they acknowledge it and get hearing aids. And even when you do get hearing aids, you may be inclined to keep them in the drawer instead of wearing them. In the meantime, your family deals with listening to an overly loud TV, repeating themselves until you understand, and hoping you heard important information. The truth is that wearing hearing aids can help both parties, but the one with hearing loss must acknowledge that first.
- You get annoyed when they say “never mind.”
It’s a common scenario: A family member is telling a joke or recounting a story, and because of your hearing loss, you miss the punchline. But when you ask them to repeat what you missed, they say “never mind.” This is frustrating for you, of course, and you may feel hurt or angry. It is also annoying for your family member, who missed out on sharing a moment or a laugh with you.
- You ask your partner to change how they talk to you.
Due to hearing loss, you may ask your partner to not speak to you with their back to you or from another room, to speak slower or louder (but not too slowly or loudly), and to make direct eye contact when they speak to you. While these changes are necessary for you to better understand your partner, it can be frustrating to them. After all, these changes are completely different from how they have spoken to people with normal hearing their entire lives.
- You may bluff when you don’t understand what they say (and they probably know).
If a family member says something and you don’t quite understand, you may bluff rather than ask them to repeat themselves. In many cases, your family member can tell you are bluffing—and that’s annoying to them. It also places them in a tough spot because you may feel embarrassed if they call you on your bluff.
- You won’t confirm important information.
If your partner gives you critical information, such as where and when to meet, they may ask you to repeat it back to them to confirm that you heard correctly. This may feel insulting and you may resist doing so. However, if you misheard due to hearing loss, it causes even more confusion and upset.
- You tune out when you cannot hear—and your partner doesn’t know what to do.
Because of your hearing loss, you may find yourself tuning out in situations when you cannot understand very well, such as social events or conversations. This leaves your partner wondering what their role should be. Should they repeat everything to you, or leave you be? Should they speak up for you, or let you advocate for yourself? These situations are rough for all involved.
- You can talk to your partner, but they cannot respond.
You may not be able to understand your partner in certain scenarios, such as when you are driving and cannot look at them, when you have a headache, or when you have auditory fatigue. In these cases, you can still speak to your partner, but they cannot respond to you in a way that you will understand. This can lead to frustration on both sides.
- You feel grief over your loss, and so does your partner.
You will experience the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) as you come to terms with your hearing loss—and so will your partner. You will mourn things differently. You will feel saddened that you cannot hear as you once did or that you cannot participate in social situations. (Thankfully, these issues can largely be solved with hearing aids!) Your partner will mourn the way they once communicated with you, the intimate late-night conversations in bed, the whispers during movies, and other shared experiences that are now much more challenging.
Coming to terms with hearing loss and its effects can be difficult for you and your family members. For both parties, patience and communication are key. For more information about how to better navigate hearing loss with your family, we invite you to contact our hearing practice today.