How Hearing Loss Affects Relationships

the effects of hearing loss on relationships

Social interaction is inherent in us from the time we are born. We respond to our mother’s voice, then learn to communicate with our friends and teachers as we grow. During adulthood, most of us create a social network, and open communication helps ensure that we maintain healthy and loving relationships.

Whether one looks at friendships, work relationships, or life partners, untreated hearing loss can damage these relationships. Hearing loss often occurs so slowly that people are unaware that they have a problem. As their hearing loss worsens, communication in relationships often suffers.

Marriage or romantic relationships

When hearing loss goes untreated, it can put great strain on a relationship. The partner without hearing loss may feel frustrated or ignored, as their loved one is constantly asking them to repeat themselves or unintentionally ignoring them. They may find that continuously repeating themselves is exhausting. Even if they know that their partner has a physical issue with hearing, they might feel abandoned or hurt.

The partner with untreated hearing loss will also have issues as communication becomes a challenge. Subtle verbal cues are no longer part of communication when one has untreated hearing loss, along with other small nuances and gestures that are important in keeping romance and intimacy alive. They might stop reaching out, as it is difficult and tiring to constantly strain to communicate. Shutting down can lead to isolation, anxiety, and depression- all harmful to an intimate relationship.

Professional relationships

Untreated hearing loss can damage professional relationships, and prevent advancement. People with untreated hearing loss are often embarrassed by it, perceiving it as a deficiency instead of a physical condition. They may mask their inability to hear by nodding in agreement even without hearing the conversation. Meetings with numerous people talking become a nightmare, as hearing loss might prevent one from both hearing information and feeling comfortable with jumping in. Supervisors might think that an employee is lacking motivation or not paying attention, if they are missing small cues or constantly asking for information to be repeated. Colleagues can become frustrated with what they perceive as a lack of communication or concentration.


People with untreated hearing loss might find that activities once enjoyed are now exercises in frustration. This frustration often leads to avoiding social gatherings, which can result in  damaged relationships and hurt feelings. If someone is regularly turning down invitations, friends can take this as a personal rejection. If someone does decide to socialize, their friends might think that their inability to hear them is a lack of caring. A continual request to repeat themselves might also become frustrating or feel like their friend just doesn’t listen. All of these small breakdowns in communication can cause friendships to suffer, particularly if friends don’t understand or know about the hearing loss.

Helen Keller, who was both legally blind and profoundly deaf, said, “Blindness separates us from things; deafness separates us from people.”

Take the step to correct your hearing loss so that you are not separated from the people you love. A key component to treating hearing loss is recognizing that it affects not just one person, but also that person’s friends and loved ones. If you think that you or a loved one have hearing loss, contact us for guidance. We have many options available for many different types of hearing loss, and can help you with your hearing. Treating hearing loss is about more than just hearing sound- it is about opening up communication with your friends and loved ones.

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