As a marriage counselor I talked with couples all the time about the things that impact their marriage. People typically argue about sex, money, children, and communication. I am an expert with YourTango and I see a great amount of articles on these topics; however, one thing seldom discussed is the impact on relationships when one partner has some form of hearing loss.
All relationships have their struggles. Approximately 40 percent of those over the age of 65 have some degree of hearing loss, but what about those that begin to lose their hearing earlier in life? Family counselors need to address these and many don't ever look at this.
While a recipe for a happy marriage can be complicated—a little bit of this, a dash of that—one of the major components of any successful relationship is a good connection. As a marriage counselor specializing in emotionally focused counseling I know perfectly well that without a marriage where people are emotionally connected you are looking for trouble.
Take that connection away and you have big marriage problems. Hearing loss does not exist in a void; it affects everyone with whom the person comes in contact, especially the hearing partner and all of their relationships particularily the couple relationship.
Take this typical couple's scenario:
"Sweetie, can you turn down the TV? It's pretty loud."
"Honey would you mind turn down the TV?"
Again no response.
"Turn down the TV you S.O.B! You're hurting my ears!"
Even the most committed couples struggle with a disparity in their relationship, stamina, libido, sleeping habits (My wife says I pull the covers off of her in the middle of the night….geez like I can help that!) and the wicked temperature argument, she's cold and I'm hot. How can you feel cold when it's like an oven in here? The toughest one yet though is the hearing differential; this problem is not just hearsay—no pun intended.
The impact of hearing loss on the connection and intimacy in a relationship can't be minimized. It is one of those unspoken subjects that generally is not discussed. Part of the reason for this is all of us who are baby boomers don't want to accept the fact we are getting older. So, we ignore these?
It falls on deaf ears, sometimes literally. The problem can create frustration and resentment in both partners leading to a breakdown of closeness and intimacy in the relationship. Hearing loss can cause a feeling of isolation in one or both partners. Partners have to learn patience with one another; this requires open communication and vulnerability that not all couples have.
You need to understand the hearing difficulty—what can be done about it as well as the emotional impact for both of you. Resistance to seeing an audiologist may get interpreted in many ways. It triggers feelings of being unimportant and not a priority. The feeling is if my partner cared about me they would do something about the hearing problem.
What is not said is sometimes more important than what is spoken; this triggers for some of us feeling unimportant and abandoned emotionally. Unless this is shared, your partner can't make a change or understand your reactions. It is important as a couple to truly be best friends with the ability to share what you feel and knowing your partner will be able to hear the message with your intention of wanting to feel close and connected. Unless this occurs and that confidence is there perhaps you have bigger issues than the hearing difficulty in the marriage?
More effective communication advice on YourTango:
This article was originally published at Stuart Fensterheim The Couples Expert Scotsdale
. Reprinted with permission from the author.