When Your Loved One Needs Help with Hearing Loss

My husband and I walked into a very noisy bar and restaurant last weekend and looked around for the friends we were meeting there. When not seeing them, my husband told me to wait at a corner table while he went deeper into the restaurant to see if they’d arrived ahead of us. As he turned his back to me and starting walking away, our friends came in. I called out to my husband several times, but he never responded. “My husband no longer hears from behind,” I explained to our friends. We ended up chasing him and tapping his shoulder to get his attention.

I’ve known for a while now, that my husband’s hearing is diminishing. He cranks the TV volume to max levels and asks me to repeat a lot. He accuses me of mumbling. He complains about the background noise in restaurants and at parties. Sometimes, he wants to forego an invitation because he doesn’t want to spend several hours in a place where it’s a struggle to hear.

I’ve spoken with my husband about his hearing but like a lot of people, he lives in denial. He ignores me when I suggest that he see an audiologist. He says he doesn’t want hearing aids and believes they won’t help him.

I’ve expressed more than one concern about having two people in a household who can’t hear. He tells me not to worry and says his hearing is better than mine, which is true. He promises that he will always be my ears.

His last statement struck me. I nag him for two reasons. Untreated hearing loss causes many social and medical issues over time. I don’t want him experiencing dementia or depression as he ages. I also fear losing my hearing spouse. Having my husband’s hearing in less than tip-top shape sends jitters through me. Can he really be there for me if he can’t hear?

Since we’ve been together, my husband has been my other pair of ears. I hand him my iPhone and ask for his help when I can’t hear the too soft voice of the person calling me. In restaurants he tells me about the daily specials after a waiter runs through the list in breathless speed. And my husband acts as my interpreter when we are out with friends and I can’t make out enough context to piece someone’s statement together.

I don’t know what to do about the hearing partner who refuses needed hearing help. In the short term, I know my husband won’t change his mind about getting a hearing checkup. Since I want to be independent, I will have to work hard to use available technology to achieve my goal of hearing everything I can on my own.

Ultimately, I am responsible for my hearing and he is responsible for his. We need to help each other with hearing issues and accept each other for who we are, two people with varying degrees of hearing loss who have different views about how to cope. There is no one right answer. But one thing is for certain, I can work on my own hearing loss independence.

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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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