Communication and Hearing Loss

According to the Center for Hearing and Communication, over 48 million people in the U.S. have hearing loss. The problem is that only 1 out of 4 people who need them actually wear hearing aids. That means 75% of those with hearing loss are putting their relationships at risk.

A 2009 British study revealed that out of 1,500 people with hearing loss surveyed, 44%  reported that their hearing loss had caused relationships with their partner, friends or family to suffer. And 34% reported that the breakdown in communication had actually brought about loss of relationships, including marriages.

Day to day communication among couples, whether about important matters or those that seem trivial, are the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. Hearing loss can cause those small but important reflections and events, seemingly insignificant at first glance, to be lost. When communication breaks down, frustration creeps in. That frustration can lead to resentment, which leads to further breakdown in communication and intimacy. The result? A sense of loneliness and isolation for both partners.

According to a 2007 survey 35% of participants reported that out of all of their relationships, the one with their significant other suffered the most. Even the smallest communications, even those normally deemed as unimportant, actually build intimacy and connection between partners. Those small asides, including jokes and humor, are actually quite significant, bringing about shared companionship and reflection. And relationships experience a significant loss in the absence of that communication.

Hearing loss can cause a cascade of detrimental effects and negative emotions between partners. Among these:

  • Frustration
  • Resentment
  • Loneliness, i.e. the hearing partners feel that they are missing out on companionship
  • Curtailing of social activities, withdrawal from social interaction
  • Decrease in intimate talk, joking with family
  • Shared communication difficulties
  • Decrease in shared activities such as watching TV
  • Loss of companionship
  • Decrease in communication (words are kept to a minimum)

On the flip side, interventions such as hearing aids improve quality of life, but can improve relationship satisfaction, communication and social functioning.