Partners of people who are going deaf endure frustration – study

Going deaf makes life hard for the sufferer but it is tough on their husband or wife too.

The partners of people losing their hearing endure frustration, anger and upset, research shows.

They have to contend with a blaring television and must raise their voice and repeat themselves to be heard.

They also report becoming socially isolated or having to attend events alone, as their deaf spouse withdraws over fears they will be unable to hear.

They are forced to act as interpreter and field every telephone call. The effort of speaking loudly, repeating words and avoiding misunderstandings can be exhausting, they say.

Researchers at Nottingham University reviewed 78 studies about the impact of deafness on sufferers and those closest to them.

Lead researcher Venessa Vas said: ‘Hearing loss affects the whole family.’

Participants in the studies reviewed by the British researchers had an average age of 66. Only 11 studies related to the feelings of partners and 18 focused on both the partner and the person with deafness.

The results show families struggle with having to interpret for someone losing their hearing. One woman said: ‘By the time you’ve tried telling him what they have said, they’ve moved on.’

Another said it was harder to enjoy social occasions because of her partner’s hearing loss, adding: ‘He’s not participating in the actual conversation and there’s just all this noise going on around him – he just switches off.’

While those going deaf suffer embarrassment, worry and fear of rejection, both they and their partners experience frustration, anger and upset, says the review, published in the journal Trends In Hearing.

People with hearing loss say they feel left out and isolated, with even one-on-one conversations a problem.

The study quotes one sufferer who said: ‘When you’ve spent 40 years being able to converse easily and then one goes deaf, it’s very difficult to adjust.’

Another said: ‘My husband sometimes gets annoyed because he has to keep repeating.’

Hearing loss impacts on everyday life, from someone being unable to hear the doorbell or phone to needing the TV or radio blaring.

One said: ‘When it [the TV] gets up too high, it aggravates me. I don’t get any pleasure out of it.’

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