by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
Hearing loss in a spouse adversely affects marriages. This should be no surprise. In fact, according to a recent survey of baby boomers with hard of hearing spouses, 48% “of the respondents feel that their marriage has suffered because of their spouse’s hearing loss.” (1)
This does not have to be. Hearing loss can bring about changes in a marriage, but these changes do not have to adversely affect the marriage itself. Let’s look at this a little closer.
One of the findings was that 65% “feel annoyed when their spouse can not hear them.” Instead of being annoyed and letting that affect the marriage, why don’t these spouses practice good hearing loss coping strategies so that their spouses do hear them the very first time? When they do this, the annoyance factor fades away.
A second finding was that “another 16% feel ignored”. I think this applies much more to family gatherings rather than just spouse to spouse communication. In groups its so easy to ignore the person that misses what is said. Because they miss things, they often don’t respond—and thus become “invisible” to the group. The hard of hearing person is not intentionally ignored—it just happens. This is why practicing good coping strategies, including being assertive, is so important. So too are using hearing aids and any assistive listening devices (ALDs) that will help the hard of hearing person hear better.
A third finding was that “8% feel sad or hurt.” I’m surprised this figure is so low. Hearing is important to us. We value it, so when we lose it, we feel the loss—and therefore must grieve this loss. Some of the emotions we experience during the grieving process include sadness and feeling hurt. These feelings should go away as we work through the grieving process and learn to become well-adjusted hard of hearing people. In addition, the hearing spouse must also grieve—not for the hearing loss since they don’t have any—but for the loss of the free and easy communication they once had with their now hard of hearing spouse.
To learn more about the grieving process in relation to hard of hearing people read our short book, “Grieving For Your Hearing Loss—The Rocky Road From Denial To Acceptance.”
A fourth finding was that 60% “find themselves in recent years talking louder daily so their spouse can hear them.” I don’t see that talking louder as such, is a problem, but a sign of using an effective coping strategy. Speaking louder so a spouse can hear you the first time has got to be far less annoying than endlessly repeating yourself in your regular voice, and in the end your spouse still doesn’t get it. Of course, the hard of hearing spouse should do what he/she can to help this situation—and that means getting hearing aids if they will help, and/or using assistive listening devices.
A fifth finding was that denial often rears ins ugly head. In fact, 57% “feel their spouse is reluctant to get his or her hearing checked.” Why? Well, “46% feel that denial is the number one reason” their spouse refuses to have a hearing test. I have heard the shocking statistic that 6 out of 7 hard of hearing people either deny they have a hearing loss, or do nothing about it. that is what causes problems in marriages. If the hard of hearing spouse would acknowledge that he/she has a hearing problem (and a hearing test will confirm that), then together the marriage partners can work on finding effective solutions so that hearing loss will not harm their marriage.
There are ever so many effective coping strategies that spouses can employ to make communicating with each other easier. Some of them involve using assistive devices and hearing aids, while others don’t cost a cent. There are a good number of these freebie effective coping strategies in our very readable book, “Talking With Hard of Hearing People—Here’s How To Do It Right!”
(1) “Being Hard of Hearing Can Cause Hard Feelings Between Spouses” in: Advance for Audiologists, April 11, 2008.