Hearing and the effect on your partner

There was a study done in Queensland, and published at the end of last year, which investigated “The Perspectives of Older People and their Spouses”.

I think most of us would suspect that having hearing difficulties would affect our spouses. Are we right? Like most research, it turns out, sometimes yes, and sometimes no, and that this at least partly depends on what you do about it.

The authors recruited their “older” people from a fifty plus data base, and the age range of their subjects was 53 to 94. This is where I admit, I am well in the age range (I’m in my 50’s) but don’t consider myself “older”. 117 people with hearing outside of audiometric normal took part in the study, and 27 of their partners with hearing in the audiometric normal range also took part. The people in the study recorded their feelings about their hearing difficulties in a survey. Not surprisingly, the results were quite varied, with people demonstrating that they had found ways to cope. What did surprise me were the discussion and results around hearing aids. A number of the hearing aid users said that they didn’t hear well with the hearing aids in noise.

At this point, I wondered if the authors looked at the types of hearing aids. I do agree that it’s important to learn some strategies to minimise the difficulties of hearing difficulties. Logic says it starts with hearing aids that work pretty well – they are not all the same, and I’m always disappointed when authors address the hearing aid variable, as though they are all the same. 25% of the people in the study recommended that people get hearing aids.

Like other authors, the Queensland researchers found that spouses were quite supportive. In fact, it seems that it’s better for relationships if hearing loss is identified as the cause of poor communication. I suppose it’s better than being accused of not listening. Early stage hearing difficulties make it harder to hear. It’s more effort. You can only sustain effort for some time, and then you stop applying effort, and don’t appear to be hearing.

I took a few messages from this study – I hope the authors agree.

If you are going to get hearing aids, get them sooner than later, and make sure they are good. Do your research. And beware marketing hype or buying “mid range” because the supplier’s whole range is so expensive.

Practice with them.

Make sure you involve your partner in your hearing strategies. Be in the same room when you are communicating, facing your spouse.

Keep a positive attitude, and use as many other strategies as you can. Hearing, listening and communicating is quite a complex process. Use all your skills, attention and assistive technologies that you can.

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