Hearing loss, revisited
Dear Readers: Recently, I printed a letter from “Sad and Frustrated Beyond Words,” who was at her wits’ end with her husband, who has hearing loss but refuses to get help. I told her she’s right that her husband should get his hearing checked but added that until he’s open to seeing a doctor, she should focus on her own mental health. I heard from many readers who have experience with hearing loss. I thought many of these responses contain valuable points, and I’d like to share some of their wisdom.
Dear Annie: Your reply to “Sad and Frustrated Beyond Words” is not helpful. I am a 65-year-old woman with hearing loss that began about seven years ago. Once I realized I had some hearing loss, I ran (I did not walk) to my ENT specialist and audiologist to seek help and hearing aids. Here’s why. Hearing loss does not just affect the person suffering from it. Hearing loss affects everyone with whom that person comes in contact. Your reader’s husband, who refuses to acknowledge his hearing loss, is essentially saying, “It’s not my problem. It’s your problem.” That approach is simply ludicrous.
My mother, who lived with my dad’s worsening hearing for at least 10 years before he died, used to plead with Dad to get a hearing test. He refused to do so.
This woman is forced to live with someone who stubbornly refuses to take steps to be a good companion. Isn’t that a basic responsibility and pact between couples? Aren’t we supposed to demonstrate our love and respect for the other person with pleasant, helpful, considerate behavior? Aren’t we supposed to take steps to correct bad behaviors and habits that hurt our partners? Would you have the same opinion if this woman wrote to you that her husband refuses to bathe? Not addressing one’s hearing loss is, in my view, a form of passive abuse, and it demonstrates the person’s unwillingness to be a good partner.
The reader’s husband is unquestionably wrong in his refusal to acknowledge his hearing loss, and he may very likely lose his spouse as a consequence. No amount of “meditation” will improve your reader’s life unless her husband takes steps to do something about his hearing. — Hearing Is Everyone’s Problem
Dear Hearing Is Everyone’s Problem: You’ve made me realize that perhaps my response to “Sad and Frustrated Beyond Words” was somewhat flip. Read on for yet another reason people with hearing loss should seek medical help.
Dear Annie: “Sad and Frustrated Beyond Words” might want to tell her husband that it could possibly cause cognitive decline if he can’t hear her or anyone else. I believe years of not hearing anyone is part of the reason my mother developed Alzheimer’s disease. If you can’t have a conversation, then your brain isn’t getting any stimulation and eventually will shut down. — Been There
Dear Been There: You’re absolutely right. According to hearing experts from Johns Hopkins, “older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal.” Thanks for writing.
Email questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.