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How to Cope With Your Spouse That’s In Denial About Hearing Loss


Something that isn’t often directly addressed is the impact hearing loss can have on the relationship between spouses. Often, the struggles of hearing loss are discussed from the vantage of how it affects the person with hearing loss.

But if you have a partner who is in denial about their hearing loss, it can have a significant impact on you too.

Discuss Hearing Loss’ Impact On The Relationship

If your spouse is in denial about their hearing loss, they often only are considering the impact and inconvenience it is for them. Also, many of the patients our doctors of audiology worked with mentioned how they thought their hearing loss was just people mumbling or refusing to speak up.

So, it is essential that you talk to your spouse about how their hearing loss is impacting you and your shared relationship. Otherwise, you may end up struggling for years.

Mark* and Cheryl* had been arguing over Mark’s hearing loss for over 8 years. He had progressive hearing loss which led him to cranking up the volume on the car radio and TV, and the sheer volume made it painful for Cheryl. They both mentioned frequent squabbles about the right volume, but what really got to both of them was shared isolation Mark’s hearing loss caused.

As his hearing loss remained unaddressed and worsening, Mark became more and more uncomfortable in situations where socialization was expected, so he started to stay home. While Cheryl tried to attend things like church, friendly get-togethers, and other outings alone for a time, Mark felt abandoned, so she started to skip and stay home too.

Both Cheryl and Mark felt isolated and unhappy, and couldn’t even enjoy each other’s company, as Mark struggled to hear Cheryl. Finally, with a grandchild’s wedding on the horizon, Cheryl decided it was time to talk to Mark about her feelings. She encouraged him to at least get his hearing checked to see if he had hearing loss and if it could be corrected.

Once Mark’s high-frequency, moderate hearing loss was identified and properly corrected with hearing aids, both Mark’s and Cheryl’s social isolation became a thing of the past.

Talk At An Emotionally Neutral Time

It can be tempting to bring up your feelings about your spouse’s hearing loss right after they have asked “What” or have completely missed what you said. However, opening up about your spouse’s hearing loss after an incident will generally lead to defensive pushback, and likely, a rousing argument about how you—or others—just need to enunciate better.

Instead, approach them at emotionally neutral times. It may also help to write down your feelings in a letter. That way, you can craft your message carefully, and the risk of miscommunication can be minimized.

Have Your Spouse’s Hearing Evaluated

It’s hard to be in denial when an audiologist performs a diagnostic hearing evaluation to determine if hearing loss is present. While it is still possible, by working with an experienced audiologist, you should have the proper support to help you and your spouse address their hearing loss.

Also, your spouse doesn’t have to face their hearing evaluation alone. Some patients can find the hearing evaluation intimidating, and it can help enormously to have a loved one nearby to support them through the testing. There are also hearing tests which can use the help of someone who normally communicates with the spouse that has hearing loss.

Along with emotional and testing support, going with your spouse to their hearing evaluation can help you learn new communication strategies. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask about different hearing situations where you and your spouse have struggled to connect. Most audiologists will be able to offer a variety of solutions.

If it does turn out that your spouse has hearing loss, the next step is to get them the right hearing aids.

Encourage Your Spouse To Ease Into Using Hearing Aids

There are two main things to remember when it comes to hearing aids:

  • The effectiveness of the hearing aids depends on how well the audiologist programmed them.
  • It takes time and practice to get used to using hearing aids.

At our hearing clinic, there are multiple follow-up appointments for those who have new hearing aids. That way, the hearing aid user can be eased into using the devices and have them fine-tuned for their hearing needs.

On your end as their spouse, you can help encourage your partner to use their hearing aids. Some people find the return of sounds unsettling and somewhat painful. It is best to ease into wearing hearing aids, starting with 1-2 hours the first few days and building up from there.

Ways To Improve Communication With A Hearing-Impaired Spouse

Even with your spouse using hearing aids, there are various communication strategies you and your partner can employ to make communication easier as well as more effective.

  • Make sure you have your spouse’s attention before you start talking. It can help reduce the amount of time repeating yourself.
  • When you talk to your spouse, speak while facing them. Most hearing aids have directional microphones that capture front-facing sounds.
  • Work on enunciating and speaking clearly. While hearing aids can reduce the “mumbling” your spouse perceives, sometimes we do talk too fast and poorly enunciate and depend on good hearing to fill in the gaps.
  • Keep your sentences short so that they are easier for your spouse to follow.
  • Consider using personal amplification devices. There are ones you can wear if you and your spouse are in a restaurant or driving, and the device will bring the sound directly to their hearing aids.
  • Don’t skip out on repeating yourself if your spouse asks. It can make them feel dismissed and not important enough to communicate with.
  • Stay patient. Learning to live with hearing loss is a process for both you and your spouse, and your ability to remain calm and patient can make a huge difference.

Take Time For Your Needs

Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget to care for yourself. Many people tend to overextend themselves when their spouse has hearing loss, leaving little time or energy for personal needs. Much like how Cheryl felt like she had to miss events to keep Mark company, a spouse’s hearing loss can leave the partner feeling isolated and lonely.

It is not wrong to take care of your social, emotional, and physical needs. And, if you choose not to enable your spouse’s hearing loss denial and instead take care of your needs, you may find that they are more willing to address their hearing loss sooner rather than later.

With patience, compassion, and good communication strategies, you can help your spouse come to grips with their hearing loss while maintaining your own emotional stability.

*Names changed to protect privacy.

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