Living with someone who has hearing loss

18 October 2017

It is one of the most common health conditions. Among the billions of people of the world, one in six has a hearing loss. Among the people aged 65 and over in the world, one in three people has a hearing loss.

Despite this, many people live with untreated hearing loss.

Although hearing loss can suddenly occur, it is often a gradual process. Without a marked change from one day to the next, it can be difficult to notice that your hearing has become worse.

In fact, it is often the friends and family of someone with hearing impairment who notice how much it affects life – long before they do.

Spotting the effects

You may notice that someone turns the volume up very loud on devices such as the TV, music player and radio. Perhaps it is difficult for them to follow conversations when you’re together in a restaurant or café. Maybe they struggle to hear what young children are saying.

Other people notice problems when they are on a busy street – they find it hard to understand sounds among the traffic and other diverse noises.

If someone you know is suffering from untreated hearing loss, you will probably find their social behavior has changed. They may have withdrawn from social activities and feel shame, guilt or anger. They may also become more self-critical, frustrated or depressed. All these types of behaviour can also have a negative effect on anyone who is near and dear.

Depending on the ears of others

If you spend a lot of time with someone who suffers from untreated hearing loss, you may find you regularly have to repeat what you say. They may ask you to explain things more often, and may depend on you to amplify what other people have said, whenever they feel the need.

In a way, you can easily become a supplement to the person’s ears. However, while they may cope with this situation, you probably feel exhausted by the end of the day – though it can continue into the night.

Breaking unhelpful habits

On average, it takes eight years for someone with hearing loss to get treatment. Those are eight years when they are missing out on sounds that make life rich: the laughter of children, the tweeting of songbirds, the crashing of waves on the beach.

Becoming aware of the numerous efforts you make to 'translate' could be an important first step towards their treatment. Realizing the extent of the support they need may empower you to take action, on behalf of you both.

When confronted, some people simply deny it. In these cases, it may take courage, patience, and persistence to get a loved one to accept they have hearing loss. It is usually best to approach it calmly and gently. And gradually. If it doesn’t work the first time, don’t push it – just try again another time.

Accepting you have a hearing loss is a big event in a person’s life. It takes everyone time to come to terms with hearing loss. The good news is that everyone can, and most can benefit from hearing aids.