Beg your pardon?
According to a recent study released by Energizer Battery, nearly half of all respondents feel that their marriage has suffered due to their partner's hearing loss. And since more than 28 million Americans now suffer from some type of hearing impairment, this is an issue with which many couples are contending.
What's so upsetting about hearing loss? Well, aside from the frustration (both of the speaker who is forced to constantly speak louder than comfortable, and the listener who is forced to constantly ask for things to be repeated), hearing loss can also be emotionally draining. Both partners begin to feel that their needs are not being understood as the miscommunications pile up around them.
Furthermore, the study also found that hearing loss is often accompanied by deliberate miscommunication at times. According to the survey, a husband might easily hear his wife preparing snacks in the kitchen and come running for a bite, but moments later when she asks him to take out the trash, he can't hear her! This so-called "selective hearing" might be amusing to an outsider, but for the spouse who constantly has to repeat herself and beg for errands to be performed, it is certainly no laughing matter.
So how can couples grapple with hearing loss and keep their relationship intact during this difficult time?
Tune in, even when it is not fun. It is much easier to hear someone when you believe that what they are saying is important. What seems like a minor issue (such as ignoring your spouse's request to buy milk on the way home) soon turns into your spouse feeling as though you ignored more than just the milk; you also ignored her needs. If you both make a commitment to be "all ears" and tune in to one another (even when the conversation is about errands), each of you will feel as though your needs matter.
Value the journey. When I was talking with my mother about this study, she told me a funny story about her communication with my father (who suffers from hearing loss). He often asks her to repeat herself. So if she says something with a negative tone, she takes it as an opportunity to "rewind" and state her comment more nicely. He is none the wiser, and she gets the chance to reconsider how she delivered her feedback, if need be.
Growing old together isn't always a primrose path, but it can still be happily ever after if both partners give it their all!
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