Approximately thirty-six million, or 1 out of 10, Americans have some degree of hearing loss. So, take a moment to imagine how often you have been in a conversation with someone that is experiencing some communication difficulty!
Untreated hearing loss can have negative effects on a person’s quality of life and can create negative feelings with and from the people with whom they interact. Some of the consequences that a person with hearing loss may experience are humiliation, anger and frustration, isolation and withdrawal from situations that they previously enjoyed because of difficulty participating in conversation. Therefore, the educational role is as important for family members as it is for the hearing impaired individual. Understanding and learning communication strategies necessary for effective interactions are important links in facilitating success in the hearing loss treatment process.
One of the most commonly reported reasons patients seek the services of an audiologist is because a spouse or other family member has urged them to do so. Why? Because the challenge of communication becomes so great that it leads to reduced interactions with others, and subsequently to feelings of guilt, frustration and anger. And, it is common for significant others to be met with rejection and defensiveness when suggesting help or treatment for the hearing loss. This is often because of denial or the difference in the perception of the hearing difficulty.
A study completed in Wales, UK used questionnaires to evaluate the effects of hearing loss on the person that has hearing loss and the effects experienced by his/her significant other. Results from the study indicated that the emotional effects of hearing loss were more apparent for the significant other than for the hard of hearing individual.
We know that significant others play an important role in the treatment of an individual with hearing loss. Family and friends can provide information about their observed effects of the hearing loss on daily life, and sometimes with greater accuracy than with the person with hearing loss. They can provide insight into how other family members and friends react to, and are affected by, the hearing loss and often have a more accurate awareness of the progression of hearing difficulty.
Unfortunately, many people with hearing loss are not accompanied by a family member or a friend when they see an audiologist. We recommend and encourage our patients to bring someone whose voice is familiar to them to enhance the outcome of the professional office visit and to help ensure that communication with family and friends is maximized.