Communication breakdown: How hearing loss affects our relationships

The Impact of Hearing Loss on Relationships and Strategies for Effective Communication

Hearing loss can profoundly affect our most important relationships, leading to various emotional and practical challenges for both individuals with hearing loss and their family members. However, understanding these impacts and adopting effective communication strategies can significantly alleviate these challenges.

How Hearing Loss Affects Relationships

Hearing loss often leads to frustration and tension during communication. For the person experiencing hearing loss, everyday conversations can become a source of embarrassment and self-consciousness. They may feel misunderstood or worry about appearing incompetent, leading to social withdrawal and feelings of isolation. The cognitive effort required to understand speech in challenging listening environments can also cause fatigue, making social engagements tiring rather than enjoyable.

Family members and partners are similarly affected. They might feel frustration and stress from having to repeat themselves or speak louder. Over time, they may feel unheard or undervalued, as if their attempts at communication are not being met with the desired attention or response. This can lead to a breakdown in communication, where both parties might give up on trying to connect verbally.

Strategies for Effective Communication

To mitigate the impact of hearing loss on relationships, employing specific communication strategies can be highly effective:

  1. Get the Person’s Attention Before Speaking: Successful communication hinges on both hearing and listening. By ensuring you have the person’s attention before speaking, you alert them to focus on both the sounds and the content of your message. This step is crucial as it prepares the listener to engage more actively in the conversation.
  2. Face the Person When You Speak: Visual cues are a significant component of effective communication. Facing the person allows them to pick up on body language and lip reading, which can convey up to 40% of the information. This visual input complements auditory information, making the message clearer.
  3. Choose a Place with Minimal Background Noise: Background noise can be a major distraction, making it difficult for the person with hearing loss to focus on the conversation. Selecting a quiet environment reduces these distractions and allows for better concentration on the speech.
  4. Employ Clear Speech Techniques: Clear speech is characterized by purposeful, articulate, and steady intonation. It is not about yelling or speaking excessively loudly, which can distort the message and cause discomfort. Instead, speaking at a normal or slightly slower pace, maintaining clear prosody, and avoiding dropping volume at the end of sentences helps ensure the message is conveyed accurately.

The Role of Hearing Aids

Correcting hearing loss with properly programmed hearing aids can greatly enhance communication. A comprehensive evaluation ensures that hearing aids are tailored to the individual’s specific needs. Real ear measurement is a technique used to fine-tune hearing aids so that soft and average speech levels are audible without being too loud.

It’s important for individuals to wear their hearing aids consistently to benefit from acclimatization and auditory stimulation. Over time, this regular use can help the brain adjust to amplified sounds, making communication smoother and less tiring.

Auditory Deprivation: Long-term Effects of Hearing Loss

Auditory deprivation is the lack of stimulation to our brain resulting from a hearing loss. Hearing loss at the end of the day is an information loss meaning you are picking up less and activating your brain much less than a person with normal hearing. The current line of thought regarding hearing loss and probability of all-cause dementia is a lack of auditory stimulation or use of neural pathways leads to a degradation of those same pathways. When it comes to our brain it really is use it or lose it. Research by Lin et al (2011 and 2013) found that your probability of all-cause dementia is 3-5 times higher if you have an untreated moderate to severe hearing impairment. Hearing better is not just going to help you right now, but it helps you control a rather significant risk factor in protecting your long-term brain health.


Hearing loss poses significant challenges to communication and relationships, but these can be effectively managed with the right strategies. By getting the person’s attention, facing them when speaking, minimizing background noise, and employing clear speech, the communication gap can be narrowed. Additionally, the proper use of hearing aids can significantly improve the quality of life for those with hearing loss and their loved ones. With these measures, the strains on relationships caused by hearing loss can be greatly reduced, fostering better understanding and stronger connections.

Take control of your hearing health today by contacting Bright Hearing and Tinnitus Centre today at 613-270-3013 or visit our website to book online at

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