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How Does Hearing Loss Affect Families?

By Miriam Dorisca
If you're living with hearing loss, you may not be the only person in your life who's affected. The effects of hearing loss can also impact your family. Learn how hearing loss can change your daily life as well as your relationships.

Approximately 48 million Americans live with hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. The mental and emotional effects of hearing loss can lead to feelings of social isolation, low self-confidence, and stress. Hearing loss can also impact your interactions with those who are close to you. 

Hearing Loss Effects on Daily Life

Hearing loss affects daily life at home, work, and in social settings. In all of these contexts, effective communication is key to healthy relationships. Therefore, hearing loss can create stress in relationships with family and friends. Additionally, being unable to hear clearly in situations where families are gathered can cause some people to withdraw. 

At work, hearing loss may impact a person’s ability to follow instructions, discussions, and presentationswhich can negatively affect work performance. Depending on the severity of hearing loss, talking on the telephone can lead to further stress.

In social settings, the addition of background noise can make conversations difficult to hear. For example, in a busy environment like a restaurant, you may find yourself asking people to repeat themselves, which can lead to feelings of frustration for both you and those around you.

How Hearing Loss Affects Families

The effects of hearing loss can impact family interactions. For one, loved ones might struggle with coming to terms with the realities of hearing loss

“It is not uncommon for the initial diagnosis of significant hearing loss to come only after many months or years of tense conversation between spouses,” Tim Trine, PhD, Chief Executive Officer at Noopl, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

Certain sounds, like specific letters and words, are more difficult to understand when you have hearing loss. “The low-frequency vowel sounds of speech are well-heard, but don’t convey sufficient information, while the high-frequency consonant sounds are softer, easily masked by background noise, and convey most of the information content in speech," Trine says.

"Not recognizing the acoustic and physiological origins of the problem lead many couples to assume the worst from their partner—that they are being ignored, that their spouse has ‘selective hearing’, or that the other is purposefully mumbling. This frustration and difficulty with communicating may lead to feelings of isolation and depression,” Trine says.

It's often necessary for the family of a person with hearing loss to be patient with their loved one. Taking steps to adapt to new forms of communication can also be very helpful.

Depending on the type of hearing loss, there may be specific environmental or physical positioning strategies that could improve communication on both ends. Families can be more supportive of their loved one by accomodating them rather than leaving them to feel isolated and lonely.

Fortunately, there are also many hearing loss treatments and innovations available to make communication more effective. The effects of hearing loss don't have to stop you from thriving and maintaining healthy relationships.

Hearing Loss Can Be Managed and Treated.

The earlier you address the symptoms of hearing loss, the more likely you are to avoid irreversible damage. Get the answers you need to start treatment today.