Hearing Loss Denial Can Hurt Relationships

Hearing Loss Denial Can Hurt Relationships

Communication, verbal or non-verbal, is at the heart of every relationship we have. From a simple smile to sharing a story, nothing binds us together like conversation – and nothing keeps us connected like sharing time with family and friends. But for many of us, age-related hearing loss can lead to unintended rifts that start small and snowball into bigger issues over time.

Here’s how hearing loss denial can lead to significant relationship issues.


Approximately one in three people in the United States between 65 and 74 years old has hearing loss. Nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. And of course, many people who are getting older don’t want to feel that way. That’s where a majority of denial sets in and you begin to hear phrases such as, “I can hear fine, the TV is just softer than it used to be,” or “There’s nothing wrong with me you’re just talking too softly.”


Hearing loss denial often becomes a defense mechanism – a way to “protect” the individual from a perceived mix of physical, psychological, social and financial strains. Yes, hearing aids are expensive. Yes, wearing them shows your age. And yes, admitting you have an issue can make you feel less of yourself. Admitting to the inevitable changes associated with aging can be harder on some people than others.



But if all of the above is true, so is this… recognizing and taking steps to treat age-related hearing loss can give you and everyone around you the gift of renewed ability. Better yet, you’ll avoid relationship issues like the following:


Unhealthy Emotions

Hearing loss can cause a cascade of detrimental effects and unhealthy emotions between partners, not the least of which can include:

  • Frustration (“Why did you ignore me?” – “Why do you keep turning the TV up so loud?”)
  • Resentment (“I am getting sick of having to repeat things over and over to you.”)
  • Loneliness (“I will pretend I don’t want to talk so I don’t feel stupid.”)
  • Confusion (“I don’t understand why you won’t see an audiologist.”)
  • Depression (“I used to be so healthy and active and now this happened.”)


Hearing partners often feel that they are missing out on companionship. Social activities are skipped and withdrawal from social interaction occurs. When hearing loss is unaddressed, intimate talk also decreases. This leads to a loss of companionship and a decline in overall communication.



When reading the list of emotions above, it’s easy to see where conflict could arise – especially among close family members. For the person with hearing loss, lessened independence and a declining sense of emotional well-being can lead to lashing out. Small things can become big things, provoking arguments where none may have previously existed. Everyone’s patience can wear thin, causing even more tension.



Avoiding social situations or scenarios that were once enjoyable is a common experience of those with hearing loss. This can be perceived as neglecting those who want to engage with you in social situations. This might come off as cold or impersonal, when in reality individuals with untreated hearing loss experience higher levels of anxiety and even headaches when straining to hear in public.   


Career Setbacks

As Americans continue to work well past traditional retirement age, it’s important to consider how hearing loss might affect your career. Missed information, workplace conflict, and unhappy customers can cost you much more than the cost of a set of hearing aids. In fact, untreated hearing loss can decrease one’s annual income by as much as $30,000.


Take Back Control

So many emotions come with hearing loss… anger, denial, frustration, fear. The key is, after experiencing those natural emotions, you or your loved one can come to a place of acceptance – followed by genuine excitement for the future. This really is a pivotal time, where the choice to see treatment for hearing loss can restore and even improve quality of life.


Many studies have shown that after receiving treatment, people’s personal lives become better. And interestingly enough, benefits of treated hearing loss are felt more so by family members than those with the hearing loss. Relations at home, self-image, overall life, mental health and work relations all improve after being treated. 


Learn more about Relay South Dakota’s many resources and services that help those who are hard-of-hearing live more fulfilling lives.

Found in: Health