Hearing Loss Can Challenge Relationships

THURSDAY, Oct. 12, 2017 — People with hearing loss face daunting challenges, but so do those who love them, researchers report.

Problems with hearing can be socially isolating for everyone involved, the British researchers explained.

“This is research which reviews the existing evidence we have on the impact of hearing loss on those diagnosed with the condition, as well as those around them,” said study leader Venessa Vas, who’s with the National Institute of Health Research Nottingham Biomedical Research Center.

Vas and her colleagues analyzed more than 70 existing studies investigating the problems faced by people with hearing loss. The studies also examined the issues faced by people who are close to someone with hearing impairments.

“Hearing loss is a chronic condition that affects the whole family,” Vas said in a University of Nottingham news release. “Yet, to our knowledge, our work represents the first attempt to piece together a picture of the effect of hearing loss from the perspectives of people with hearing loss and their partners.”

Some of the most common issues faced by people with hearing loss, as well as those closest to them, include:

  • Phone calls. People with trouble hearing often can’t hear the phone ring or hear a person talking on the other end. On the flip side, those around them report feeling frustrated by having to constantly answer the phone or alert someone when it’s ringing.
  • Volume control. People with hearing loss often raise the volume on the radio and TV, which may be problematic for those nearby.
  • Social isolation. People with hearing loss often have trouble talking in crowds or noisy environments, which leaves them feeling left out or isolated from others. Meanwhile, their friends and loved ones may enjoy socializing, but be forced to attend events alone.
  • Guilt and frustration. Hearing loss can make communication much more difficult and draining. This can put added strain on relationships, particularly when a partner feels guilty about not understanding the problems people with hearing loss face.

“Evidence from video-recorded audiology appointments shows that family members have a strong interest in being involved and sharing their experiences of the patient’s hearing loss,” Vas said. “However, they are typically discounted by the audiologist.”

The researchers concluded that by listening to patients’ loved ones and friends during office visits, doctors can get a more accurate picture of the hearing loss challenges they face and develop better treatment plans to help them manage these difficulties.

The findings were published recently in the journal Trends in Hearing.

More information

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has more about hearing loss.