Adjusting to hearing loss: six things to consider

Hearing loss due to age has a subtle beginning.  Day by day, the difference is hardly noticeable. Over a period of years, though, there’s a significant change. How do you adjust? How do people around you adjust?

1) Researchers at the University of Montréal say that you, and the people around you, adjust long before the hearing loss is even acknowledged.

“This means that...adjustments are un-negotiated or implicitly negotiated,” they wrote.

Aye, there’s the rub.  When adjustments are not explicitly discussed, couples and family members come up with solutions that aren’t necessarily satisfactory for everyone.  



A typical scenario:

The spouse with hearing loss turns up the volume on the TV. The partner with normal hearing is irritated, and asks repeatedly to turn the TV down.

Possible adjustments: stop watching TV, stop watching TV together (watch TV in different rooms), hearing aids, assistive devices.

A common adjustment is to stop watching TV together.

This is an example of an implicit negotiation. The nature of the problem (hearing loss), difficulties in understanding, and the frustrations experienced by both partners are not discussed.  Is the best solution to retreat to different rooms? If you sat down and discussed it, would that be the best answer?

Since the average person waits seven years to do something about hearing loss, the adjustments are ongoing. The adjustments become part of our roles as spouses.  You cook, I take out the garbage. I turn on the TV, you leave the room.

So here’s my beef.  If the spouse with hearing loss is not ready to get hearing aids yet, often no other solutions are offered. 

Nothing could be further from the truth!

2 ) If not hearing aids, what about an assistive device?

3) If not an assistive device, what about lipreading instruction?

4)  If not lipreading, what about auditory training?

5) If not auditory training, what about conversation therapy?

6) If not conversation therapy, what about communication rules?

Any of these options would help.  In fact, a proactive plan would be to pursue more than one. 

Adjusting to hearing loss is a process.  It doesn’t happen with lightning speed.  The important thing is to do somethingEach small step towards better communication is an important one.


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Photo credit: © Sarah2 |


129Sandra Vandenhoff is an audiologist with hearing loss, founder of HEARa, Hearing Strategies coach, speaker, Canadian author, whose very first award was “Happiest Camper” when she was 12 years old.