It’s a fact―no one likes to admit they’re not hearing as well as they used to. Instead, they find ways, consciously or not, to “work around” their hearing loss. Trouble hearing the television? Crank up the volume. Can’t hear the waitress? Have a spouse repeat what they said. However, at some point workarounds become ineffective, plus they place a burden on a loved one who has to suffer through blaring TV shows and serving as a personal translator.
If you’re the one whose significant other is working around their hearing loss instead of tackling it head-on, you know that something has to give. Make sure that something isn’t your relationship by encouraging your spouse to have their hearing loss diagnosed and treated as a hearing care professional recommends.
Use the carrot and the stick
Everyone has heard the expression use the carrot or the stick when it comes to convincing someone to take a desired action. When encouraging someone to address their hearing difficulties, we suggest combining strategies to get them to recognize the seriousness of their condition and do something about it.
So what constitutes the stick in this scenario? Make sure your spouse understands all the negatives associated with hearing loss―like how it doesn’t just affect them. Let them know (gently) that you don’t like having the TV blasting so loud it hurts your ears, you don’t want to repeat everything others say all the time, and you don’t enjoy having one-sided conversations because your spouse doesn’t hear or misunderstands your words.
Then you can shift to the risks of ignoring hearing loss, which extend beyond the condition itself. A little research will yield a wealth of information about the co-morbidities of hearing loss, which includes heart disease, depression, dementia, diabetes, Meniere’s disease, and many others. Untreated hearing loss contributes to some of these, while in others hearing problems are early warning signs that shouldn’t be ignored.
Now that you have your spouse’s attention, it’s time to offer the carrot. Treating hearing loss improves quality of life, restoring ability to enjoy social situation and fully participate in friendships and family connections. If your spouse is still employed, make sure they know treating hearing problems improves earning potential and increases the likelihood of retaining their job. Hearing better will make them feel more confident, and reduce the anxiety and exhaustion caused by struggling to hear. And, on a personal note, let them know it will improve communication between the two of you, which is the cornerstone of any successful union.
Help them take the next step
Let your spouse know that you respect their feelings and how difficult it is to come to grips with their hearing loss. At the same time, be clear that you are not going to enable them to ignore their condition. Encourage them to talk to a personal physician first to discuss their hearing concerns and get checked for any potential co-morbidity that could be contributing to or caused by their condition. They should ask the physician for a referral to a hearing care professional for a complete hearing evaluation, so they know exactly what form of hearing loss they’re dealing with and how best to treat it. Finally, if hearing aids are offered as a solution, assist your spouse in choosing the pair that will best fit their lifestyle and esthetic preferences. When you address hearing loss as a team, you’ll both benefit in the end.