Several scientific studies have found that relatives to a person with a hearing loss are also affected by the hearing loss. Spouses are mostly affected, but also other family members and friends are affected.
A meta-synthesis study of several qualitative papers, including nearly 900 patient records, concluded that for the communication partners (e.g. spouses) hearing loss can:
- Affect personal relations
- Lead to communication difficulties
- Influence mood
- Cause frustration
- Lead to activity limitations and participation restrictions
- Exclude or limit social and leisure activities
The study also examined coping strategies.
Strategies for adopting to the condition involved accepting the condition and attempting to adjust to the situation, willingness to continue in activities regardless of the limitations, denying the stigma attached to hearing loss and the use of effective communication strategies.
The study also found that several of the papers stressed the importance of aligned coping strategies between the person with hearing loss and the partner. Couples who work together to adapt and adjust to the stress of the situation appeared to cope better, suggesting that the influence of the psychological effects of hearing loss depends on the interaction between the person with hearing loss and the partner and the aligned coping strategies they use.
Many partners felt that they could only help if the person with the hearing loss was willing to admit that there was a problem, meaning that the hard of hearing person needs recognize a hearing loss before a partner can help. This also explains the frustration felt by partners of persons who do not recognize their hearing loss.
Supportive behavior is important
Another study that examined 513 older couples who experienced sensory loss (vision, hearing or both), found that the behavior of the spouse influences the level of anxiety and depression of the person with a sensory loss. Supportive behavior reduced the level of anxiety and depression, while unsupportive behavior led to higher levels of anxiety and depression.
Coping together with hearing loss: a qualitative meta-synthesis of psychosocial experiences of people with hearing loss and their communication partners, International Journal of Audiology, 2017
Mental Health and Spouse Support Among Older Couples Living with Sensory Loss, Journal of Aging and Health, 1- 19, 2017
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