Happier Relationships

How a Hearing Care Professional Can Help


In couples, if one partner develops hearing loss, there’s always a chance that the other partner will misinterpret a failure to hear.

Sometimes the explanation for hearing incorrectly is hearing loss; sometimes it is lack of attention and lack of care.

What is the reason, most of the time?

The answer to this question will tell you a lot about the love thermometer in a relationship.

Let’s say a couple receives an invitation to a party. The normally-hearing partner wants to go and is looking forward to seeing friends. The spouse with hearing loss doesn’t want to go. After discussion, the partner goes alone.

Research shows that in happier couples, the normally-hearing partner is more likely to explain reluctance to go to the party as primarily due to hearing loss.

Conversely, if the normally-hearing partner attributes the reluctance to go as due to a personality aspect (such as being anti-social), or due to something else that is unchangeable, relationship satisfaction is more likely to be low.

Hearing care professionals (HCPs) have an important role to play in this situation.

First of all, HCPs can explain that a reluctance to go to a party is not all that uncommon in people with hearing loss. The hearing care professional can facilitate a discussion about the reasons for this. Then, it’s important to come up with some rules.

Should the partner with normal hearing get used to going to parties alone? Clearly not. Some give and take is important here.

The partner might be okay with going to some parties alone. But not likely all of them. So, which ones? What are the rules?

When they do go together, what would make it easier for the spouse with hearing loss? As an example, they can arrive early, before it gets too noisy. (See my eBook for a list of other suggestions.) The spouse with hearing loss should then also agree to change. See any of these communication strategies for suggestions.

It’s important that both agree to one change in behaviour. The key is compromise.

The other key is baby steps. With or without hearing loss, when a task feels too big, most people will resist. In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, Dan Pink points out that big changes come from a succession of small changes. This is especially true when every small victory is celebrated.

Just working through one situation like this with a couple may have a significant impact on relationship satisfaction. Remember the research. In happier couples, the partner with normal hearing will explain the behaviour as related to hearing loss instead of due to personality.

It’s a matter of education—and as a hearing care professional, you have a wealth of knowledge about the impact of hearing loss on behaviour.

  • Photo credit:  © Alan Fortune

    Sandra Vandenhoff

    Dr. Sandra Vandenhoff is an audiologist with hearing loss, founder of HEARa, Hearing Strategies coach, speaker, and Canadian author, who gave her GPS away long before realizing that it was a good brain-boosting move.

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