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Ask the Audiologist: How can I help my spouse break the cycle of bad hearing?

I’m convinced my spouse has hearing loss, but he doesn’t believe he needs help. We get into an argument every time I bring up the topic. How can we break this cycle of bad hearing?

In the movie Groundhog Day, the character played by Bill Murray is doomed to relive the same day repeatedly. When living with someone who’s in denial about hearing loss, you may feel the same way. Communication breaks down because of the hearing loss, talking about it turns into an argument, and the lack of resolution leads to bad feelings on both sides, which bubble up again the next time communication breaks down. This vicious cycle is one of the reasons why untreated hearing loss can be so damaging to personal relationships.

Oftentimes, the person with the hearing loss is the one least aware of the severity of the problem and the effect it has on the people around them. So, it is up to their friends and family to convince them to seek professional help. Here are some tips that could further the conversation without escalating the negativity:

Start a journal

Your spouse may already know he has hearing loss, but perhaps he doesn’t think it’s a “big deal.” He knows he misses some words, but he thinks he’s managing just fine. In such cases, suggest that he keep a simple journal where he can make a tick mark every time he notices that he didn’t hear something or had to ask for repetition. People are often surprised at the number of tick marks in the journal after a single week. This could be a simple yet palpable way for your spouse to realize the true extent of what he’s been missing.

Do the research

The more you know about the topic, the better you can make a convincing argument. If you can speak knowledgably about hearing loss and hearing aids, you’ll be better equipped to offer a logical and fact-based response when your spouse raises objections. Besides reading up on the internet, do you have any friends or acquaintances who wear hearing aids and can share their first-hand experiences? Also consider calling a local hearing care professional who may offer additional tips and ideas.

Team up

Sometimes it’s not enough for your spouse to only hear the problem from you. Convince the kids and his friends to talk to him about the times they had trouble communicating with him. Hearing the concern from multiple sources, and in different ways may make a difference.

Strategize your approach

Timing is everything. Your reasons for why he needs help will fall on deaf ears (no pun intended) if you are both angry or in a bad mood. Try to find a time when you’re both more relaxed to broach the subject. Rather than talking in terms of you versus me, talk about the hearing loss versus your relationship. For example, instead of being accusatory about his actions or inactions, remind him about how that misunderstanding from the hearing loss ruined your date night. And rather than trying to convince him to get hearing aids from the get-go, start small, such as scheduling a hearing test, or simply learning more about hearing loss and hearing aids together.

We in the hearing care profession call the process whereby an individual first experiences hearing loss to eventually overcoming it by wearing hearing aids the “Patient Journey.” Everyone’s is different. But like all journeys, the way seems shorter and the bumps more tolerable when we have a loving companion along for the ride. By reading this article, you have already demonstrated your commitment to the journey. Reassuring your spouse that this is a process you want to go through together as a team will already make him more receptive to your ideas.