Written by Melinda ‘Sunni’ McBride, Au. D. Brought to you by Dana Luzon, Au.D. –
Back in 1971 when Sly and the Family Stone hit number one on the pop charts, no one was relating the chorus “It’s a family affair” to hearing impairment. Today, people who are dealing with age-related hearing loss in parents or a spouse—
even those coping with their own auditory chal-lenges—can find an anthem in those lyrics. Hearing loss is indeed a family affair.
Male Versus Female
One in three American adults over the age of 60 has a hearing problem, a number that climbs with advancing age. The percentage of men and women involved is roughly equal but the sexes do differ in frequency patterns. Men tend to have more high-frequency loss and women lose low-frequency hearing faster than men. Does this mean that a husband will have more trouble understanding his wife than his brother or son-in-law? This is very likely, especially if his wife naturally speaks in a higher, softer voice than the typical male. Conversely, his wife may be fine with the ladies at bridge club but she certainly has trouble hearing him.
Loss of Intimacy
Communication is both a joy and a foundation for any relationship. Particularly in marriages, untreated hearing loss is frustrating and exhausting. The one who is struggling to hear or constantly misunderstanding what is said becomes easily irritated, accusing others of speaking too softly or mumbling.
His or her mate may give up trying to communicate and slowly withdraw. The same is true for children, grandchildren and friends. Others lose patience and grow increasingly resentful when a loved one with a hearing impairment refuses to acknowledge the issue or seek available help. That’s why untreated hearing loss so often leads to isolation, depression, discord—and even divorce.
Solutions and Possibilities
More than 90 percent of people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids, including remarkable gains in quality of life—and relationships. In a survey on hearing loss conducted by the National Council on Aging, many older adults who had begun to use hearing aids reported significant improvement in mental health (36 percent), sense of independence (34 percent), and social life (34 percent).
The very decision to seek treatment can renew motivation in spouses and close family members to be more mindful of their own communication habits. They become more willing to do their part by speaking more clearly, keeping their face in view and avoiding background noise. These simple strategies along with “hearing friendly” settings for time together can make listening and sharing so much easier—and enjoyable. Select secluded corners of quiet restaurants at less busy times. In public or at home, close the distance between the speaker and the listener. Look into constantly advancing technological solutions for amplifying the sound of entertainment systems, using headsets and wireless innovation to modulate the volume for one person without affecting those nearby. The possibilities may not be endless, but they can be life-changing.
For yourself and those you love, take the first step toward living life out loud again. Contact us today.