As you can imagine – or as you have perhaps learned for yourself – sensory loss, including hearing loss, impacts almost every aspect of a person’s life. While you may first think of how a person’s livelihood, social life, and performance of daily tasks are affected, the impact is also felt strongly in a person’s relationships.
With Valentine’s Day coming up soon, we’re sharing some interesting findings from a study on couples living with sensory loss. This article incorporates information from two separate studies. The first study focused on deafblind older adults and their partners, with the average age of the deafblind individual being 72 and the average age of their partner being 69. The second study included individuals with sensory loss who are hard of hearing, visually impaired, or deafblind; this study was based on younger adults, with the average age of the person with sensory loss being 52 and the average age of their partner being 51.
Several common trends emerged in both studies. In addition, to support from their partner or spouse, the individuals with sensory loss also noted the importance of support from peers (in-person or online) and healthcare professionals. Some also advised seeking assistance from counselors, rehabilitation specialists, and technology. One deafblind partner recommended the following: “Counseling, either individual or couples, as the small things end up being a big deal (i.e., doors of cupboards remaining open). Find devices to support being independent such as a cane, hearing aid, alarm system, etc.”
The study also found that individuals with sensory loss, as well as their spouses, want patience and understanding in their relationship. A visually impaired partner noted, “The one with sensory loss needs to communicate 100% of the time and be patient with their partner. We are going through a unique, difficult experience and very few, if any, can understand what precisely gets you down. For the partner, I would say understand that there will be mood swings and don’t run from those but get your loved one to talk about what is going on.” A spouse of a hard-of-hearing individual also said, “Try to be understanding. Make as much effort as you can to remember to speak clearly and turn towards the person you are speaking to.”
While couples living with sensory loss acknowledge that new difficulties and obstacles will arise, the study found that individuals with sensory loss want to maintain a sense of independence and hope that their spouse will respect this desire. One deafblind partner recommended, “Discuss with your partner that he/she should only help in an emergency. You may also be able to tell your partner that you would rather speak to [others] yourself. All people have a need for direct contact with other people and that also applies to you.”
Even through the new challenges that come with sensory loss, couples emphasized the importance of being positive and focusing on what they are able to do. A visually impaired individual said, “Don’t stop your dreams. Life goes on. Life is still worth it as there is a whole world out there even if we can’t see.” A spouse advised, “Focus on what the person CAN do, not on what he/she CAN’T.” Another spouse noted the importance of staying positive: “It is also easier to help someone who is positive, right… than helping someone who is sour and grumpy and vicious.”
As you celebrate Valentine’s Day, we hope you feel grateful for those in your life who support and love you, no matter the challenges you face. We welcome you to contact us today to learn more about how you can live with and treat hearing loss.