Building Connections | May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

Building Connections | May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

The relationships in your life help you to feel connected and engaged. It is estimated that one in eight people suffer with hearing loss in both ears making it not only difficult to hear, but to communicate. This hearing issue, if unaddressed affects many aspects of living and specifically your most important relationships.

This month of May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, an annual month-long campaign by The American Speech-language and Hearing Association to raise awareness of communication issues such as hearing loss. This year’s theme is “Building Connections” and is a call to treat your hearing loss to strengthen your connections between friend’s family and co-workers.

Communication is key to a healthy relationship

Day to day communication between couples, even if it may seem mundane is the glue that builds intimacy. It’s the small talk, the banter and the inside jokes which strengthen a relationship and enforce a sense of connection and belonging. As hearing loss goes untreated in one or both partners communication begins to break down and frustration and resentment take over.

Studies show that hearing loss produces frustration, embarrassment, and distress for both people within a partnership. A 2019 study on the quality of relationships found that “both the hearing-impaired participants and their close partners bemoaned the loss of spontaneity and the difficulties of sharing small unexpected incidents, observations and small talk in their everyday interactions.”

Audiologist Patricia Chute, professor and chair of the Division of Health Professions at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY, describes the hearing loss’s negative impact on relationships: “All too often spouses blame each other’s ability to listen when in fact it is truly a hearing problem that is chipping away at their ability to communicate.”

Feeling distant from friends and family

It is not just partnerships that are affected but friendships as well. As people struggle to follow conversation due to an unaddressed hearing loss, they may begin to opt out of social engagements. Hearing loss often begins slowly often affecting only certain pitches or consonants. This leaves gaps in sentences which the brain is forced to work overtime to figure out. At the end of casual conversation which may have in the past instilled a sense of connection or even inspiration between friends and family, a person with untreated hearing loss will find themselves exhausted and even frustrated instead.

Over years, a person may slowly grow apart from family and friends, as it is easier to stay at home and avoid the fatigue. When unaddressed for years, the underestimation caused by decreased social interactions can cause a higher rate of cognitive decline and higher risk of developing dementia. 

Hearing loss and its effect on earnings

Hearing loss not only affects your personal relationships, but your success in your profession as well. This is alarming because according to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), of the 15% of Americans who report some degree of hearing loss, about 60 percent are still in either working or students. People in the past have associated hearing loss as a condition specific to the elderly but this is not always the case.

When your hearing loss is diagnosed and you are treating the issue you can not only ask for accommodations to help you succeed with hearing loss because it is a recognized disability under the American Disabilities Act. However, for those who are not aware or choosing not to treat the issue, your co-workers and employers may tire of you missing key information at meetings, or seeming confused because you did not hear instructions. A study conducted by the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) surveyed almost 40,000 households utilized the National Family Opinion (NFO) panel to collect information on hearing loss’s effect on earnings. Survey participants reported that hearing loss was shown to negatively impact household income by up to $12,000 per year, based on the degree of an individual’s hearing loss. The good news was that when hearing loss was treated the impact on earnings was reduced by 50%.

Treatment to rebuild relationships

While hearing loss is in most cases irreversible, it can be treated with the use of hearing aids, or cochlear implants. These tiny digital devices fit in or around the ear and amply the specific sounds you struggle with. People who use hearing aids are able to hear their partners, their family, friends and co-workers again. Overtime you can begin to rebuild closeness in your relationships.

Take the opportunity during this Better Hearing and Speech Month to schedule a hearing test with us today. The sooner you understand the extent of your hearing loss, the sooner you can start rebuild connections with the people in your life!