Health & Wellness

Honey, Why Won’t You Listen?

group-fitnessby Sreek Cherukuri, MD

Joe and Linda, about to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary, were shouting at each other more than talking.  Linda was upset at Joe for having the television on too loud, and Joe was hurt by Linda’s constant ‘nagging.’  The two would often just avoid being in the same room, so as not to have to listen to blaring shows or yelling.

This relationship, which should be thriving on intimate discussions and laughter, continued to deteriorate.  This destruction could easily be avoided through one partner’s willingness to wear a hearing aid device, and the other to communicate effectively.

Have you noticed your spouse or life partner withdrawing from conversation more often, turning up the television, and basically ignoring you?  This could signal something other than emotional distance.   This could be the first signs of hearing loss.

In a recent study from the US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Deafness, it was determined that these age groups have hearing loss:

  • 18 percent of American adults 45-64 years old
  • 30 percent of adults 65-74 years old
  • 47 percent of adults 75 years old or older

The biggest issue though is that hearing loss can go undiagnosed for years, leading to degenerative impairment that can further damage the delicate hair cells that lack the ability to regenerate or repair.  Over time, this uncorrected disability can lead to disconnect and withdrawal from friends and family members.

When a partner begins to show tell-tale signs of hearing problems through avoidance of phone conversations, dinner parties or complaints that their partners are ‘mumbling’ or ‘muttering’ when they speak, it maybe be time to see a physician for a hearing evaluation.

Once the hearing loss is diagnosed correctly, and a proper hearing aid device is fitted for the patient’s specific needs, the next step is learning how to wear and care for this important support properly.

A well-designed hearing aid can make a great, positive difference toward not only hearing well, but repairing a relationship that has suffered confusion and frustration due to the hearing loss.   But again, this is easier said than done as many people, once having purchased a hearing device, often refuse to wear them!

In a study of 100 couples over age 50, in which one partner owned a hearing aid, it was reported that over 44 percent of those owners wore them only an hour or so each day, and 13 percent did not use them at all!   This resistance leads to frustration and anger on the part of the spouse who is suffering through the behaviors of the partner who simply cannot hear well.

It is important that the person without the hearing problem be sensitive to their spouse with the loss.  There are positive steps one can take in partner communication in order to respectfully support a loving relationship.

Some guidelines offered by the University of California, San Francisco include:

  • Speaking slowly, distinctly and naturally without shouting or exaggerating mouth movements.
  • Facing the hearing impaired person directly, on the same level.
  • Do not talk from another room.
  • Avoid communicating amidst lots of background noise.
  • Know which is the listener’s better ear.
  • Don’t shield your face or mouth while talking.

These simple steps can show sensitivity and understanding toward a partner who is just as frustrated with their inability to hear, and will help make it more likely that they will wear their device more often.

Joe now wears his doctor-designed hearing device , and Linda is more able to communicate with care and sensitivity.  They talk and laugh together daily.  Their 30th anniversary party promises to be a great one!

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