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  • Kathleen Wallace

How Hearing Loss Affects Loved Ones

Have you ever heard of the term "third party disability?" The World Health Organization defines it as the disability experienced by family members or significant others due to a loved one's condition. Given the two-way nature of communication, it is understandable that one's hearing loss would have an impact on those around them. While we tend to focus on just the person with hearing loss, getting caught up in test results and hearing aid options, we must also look at the broader picture: hearing loss affects how we interact with others, how we form and maintain relationships, and how we connect to the world.

Audiology research has firmly established many of the social, emotional, and quality of life effects on those with untreated hearing loss and the improvements that occur when one's hearing loss is managed. A growing body of research, particularly out of Australia, has looked at measurements of communication partners of those with hearing loss, whether it is a spouse, parent, child, or friend. Interestingly, even if the communication partner has normal hearing, they will experience similar effects as the person with hearing loss, both the negative effects of untreated hearing loss and positive effects of treated hearing loss.

After thousands of patient interactions, I can provide plenty of anecdotal evidence in support of this. Spouses or partners commonly report that their social lives suffer because of their spouse's hearing loss; the person with hearing loss might not like going to loud restaurants or parties or weddings anymore, so the spouse also must pass on these events. If someone doesn't like talking on the phone anymore because of difficulty due to a hearing loss, it of course also affects those who are calling and can make it challenging to maintain a relationship. If a loved one is disturbed by their hearing loss, whether it is depression or anxiety, it is understandable that this would also cause concern and negative effects in family members and friends.

The good news? Research shows that when someone manages their hearing loss through hearing aids, cochlear implantation, or aural rehabilitation, both the person with hearing loss and their communication partners experience a myriad of positive outcomes. This includes increased social engagement, communication, happiness, and self-esteem, as well as reduced frustration, anxiety, caregiver burden, and stress.

People pursue hearing healthcare for a lot of reasons. Perhaps for some the idea of doing it for their loved ones will be the motivation they need.

If you or a loved one experiences hearing loss and you'd like to learn more, please schedule a consultation today.

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