You think your spouse may have hearing loss, but how can you be sure? If you directly ask, he or she will likely deny it because it is not as obvious to them as it is to you. It can be a touchy subject, especially if that hearing loss happens to coincide with the aging process. Presbycusis, for example, is sensorineural hearing loss and is the result of degeneration of the nerves in the inner ear that help to process sound, and accounts for about 1/3 of all hearing loss.
The good news is that hearing loss isn’t that difficult to recognize from the outside looking in. There are recognizable signs to that will help you notice when it is affecting someone’s life. Once you know what to look for, you can prepare to sit down and talk openly about the problem with your loved one. Recognizing there is a problem is the first step in finding a solution to your loved one’s hearing loss.
- Difficulty Participating in Conversations
If your loved one is straining to hear what people are saying during a conversation, this is generally the first signal there may be a problem. You may notice it gets even harder for them if more than one person is talking, or if there is a lot background noise, like a running air conditioner or fan.
Two things can happen if this person can’t hear what is being said:
- He or she will keep asking others to repeat themselves or ask “What?” It won’t be the occasional misunderstanding, but a constant need to hear it again.
- They stop participating in the discussion. People get embarrassed when they miss something someone says and become afraid of looking foolish. It feels like a failure of some kind to them. Your spouse may seem distracted or stop interacting. At some level, he or she is just trying to catch up and figure out why they can’t understand.
- The Loud TV
If your TV is blasting you out of the room, but your spouse keeps turning it up, this is also a clear indicator of a hearing problem. In most cases, especially those related to age, hearing loss is gradual. Over time, the TV just got louder and louder, so your spouse might not even be aware of the problem.
- They Start Guessing
People with diminished hearing tend to guess a lot about things you might assume they already know. They answer questions inappropriately, miss the point of a discussion, mess up people’s names, or are constantly running early or late. They are faking their understanding of what was said or just heard it wrong in the first place.
- They Get Frustrated
Struggling to hear is exhausting and very frustrating, especially when you are unaware of the underlying problem. Your spouse may get angry and try to shift the blame. You may have heard phrases like this:
- Why don’t you speak clearer?
- Why can’t you speak up?
- Stop mumbling your words.
- You must have told me wrong.
That frustration can escalate to anger, depression and social isolation if the hearing situation isn’t addressed.
- Struggling to Hear Over Background Noise
Often, when you have hearing loss, it becomes difficult to filter out environmental noises. That humming refrigerator, the air conditioner, the people in the restaurant talking around you – all these noises conspire to keep this person from hearing what is important. If your spouse starts complaining that the fan is too loud or that the room is too noisy, it may be a sign of hearing loss.
Hearing loss doesn’t have to be a life-changing event. Most of the time, all you need is a little amplification. Get your spouse set up with a hearing aid, so he or she can start enjoying life again.