The effect of untreated hearing loss on spouses and partners is now recognized by the World Health Organization as a third-party disability. The impacts of untreated hearing loss are so profound for the spouse or partner of a hearing-impaired person they affect every part of their daily lives.
A survey done regularly by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) discovered nearly half the people with untreated hearing loss experience relationship breakdown. Spouses and partners of those with untreated hearing loss experience the same frustrations, stress and disconnection from society that the hearing-impaired person does and then some. For many, the effort to support and protect their hearing-impaired spouse or partner becomes too much.
“On the surface, it’s easy to understand how partners and spouses are affected,” explained Wendy Moore, research and marketing manager for Hear Well Be Well Hearing Clinics. “There’s the constant repeating and sometimes shouting to be heard; the TV being on too loud. Just those are frustrating.
“When you look at it more deeply, you find the spouses and partners have the added responsibilities of managing communication for the hearing-impaired person in social settings as well as guarding that person from embarrassment and judgement.”
Several research projects around the world have found spouses can feel frustration and embarrassment at their partner’s behaviour, particularly when the partner insists they’re managing just fine with their hearing. That denial and the extra burden on the hearing spouse increases tension in the relationship, decreases intimacy and creates a loss of companionship.
The relationships most at risk are in those with denial compounded by the hearing spouse feeling like they’ve done all the adapting to the situation.
“To keep the peace in the household, the hearing spouses adapt and change how they live their lives,” Moore added. “They may be worrying constantly about their hearing loss partner’s safety because they can’t hear alarms, the doorbell or traffic. And when the person with hearing loss expects others to accommodate their hearing loss, it can become awkward at the minimum.”
The research suggests many spouses hide their frustration, depression and stress, bottling it up. That suppressing of emotions, while it may reduce conflict in the relationship, has consequences of its own.
“There’s lots of research that discusses both the mental and physical impacts of suppressed emotion,” Moore said. “Anxiety, depression and stress are some mental impacts. From the physical side of things, that stress can reduce the effectiveness of your immune system making you more vulnerable to a variety of illnesses.
“The important thing for people who have hearing loss is to know they aren’t the only person on this journey. They’re taking their spouses and partners along with them, and maybe not in a good way.”
Hear Well Be Well Hearing Clinics has been helping people with their hearing for 40 years and offers free hearing tests so people can know where they’re at with their hearing. They can be reached at hearwellbewell.ca.
*This Article Is Sponsored By Hear well Be Well