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PRO HEARING SPONSORED CONTENT Communication is fundamental to any relationship, whether personal or professional. It is the greatest contributing factor in thriving relationships, however, it can also be a great obstacle.

This is because communication is complicated and is multifaceted. Consider body language, word choice, tone, hearing, listening, eye contact, etc. Even the simplest interactions rely on these basic elements of communication! Now, imagine decreasing one of these major elements: hearing. This makes communication instantly more difficult! To remove the ability to hear (or hear well) is to interrupt the brain’s ability to perceive, decode and respond to sound. Left long enough, hearing loss will lead to a decrease in speech discrimination (ability to understand speech without visual cues), frequent misunderstanding, and inevitably pose communication disruptions in interpersonal relationships.

Time and time again, patients discuss with us the toll untreated hearing loss has taken on their relationships. This is because the impacts of hearing loss go well beyond the person who has it. Most of the time, it doesn’t start out that way, especially if the progression of loss is slow. However, once miscommunication sets in and it begins to affect relationships (personally, socially, or professionally), it becomes much more difficult to ignore. Patients often feel embarrassed, isolated, and frustrated when they are missing dialogue and social cues. On the flip side, many family members and friends also feel a sense of frustration because lines get crossed and frequent repeating becomes tiring. The truth is, hearing loss is more complicated that it seems, which is why it is often misunderstood. Understanding the complexities of hearing loss can lead to better understanding, more compassion, and less frustration.

Many folks mistake hearing and listening. They do go hand in hand but are not the same. Hearing is an involuntary, biological function of the human body in response to outside stimuli. One does not choose to hear the air conditioner, a chainsaw, a baby crying, or a tornado siren. It is just a natural function that the body and brain were designed to do. Listening, on the other hand, is a voluntary cognitive function requiring intentional focus and engagement. One can choose to listen to a someone talk, lyrics in a song, movie, or lecture. One can choose to tune in or tune out. Unfortunately, often times the struggle in interpersonal relationships between those with hearing loss and those without stems from the mistaken belief that hearing equates to listening and listening equates hearing. This is simply a misunderstanding of hearing loss, confusing the intentional with the unintentional, the biological and the voluntary. It is truly possible to hear but not understand despite putting in the effort to listen. This is due to lost speech discrimination (the ability to understand speech without visual cues). Essentially with long standing hearing loss, auditory brain pathways atrophy and result in process disruptions that impede one’s ability to understand speech.

Thankfully, there is much hope for hearing loss and the restoration of communication with the use of hearing aids! It is important to note that hearing aids cannot completely correct hearing to its former glory, nor can it give back speech that has been lost after a long-standing hearing loss. While that may sound discouraging, it doesn’t actually mean hearing loss can’t be helped! It is true that hearing aids can not cure hearing loss, but they can, however, prevent further damage, slow progression, and support remaining hearing. Hearing aids are finely tuned for each patient to deliver sound with accuracy according to one’s unique hearing needs. This gives the brain the stimuli needed to better process information, exercises the brain, and keep it elastic to prevent further atrophy. This, no doubt, has a positive impact on quality of life, including improving communication in interpersonal relationships. That is something to be very encouraged about!

There is no doubt that communication plays and integral role in the quality of interpersonal relationships. When hearing loss occurs, communication can become difficult for all involved. Therefore, it is important for those in relationship with someone struggling with hearing loss to understand the complexities behind it. By spotting the nuances in hearing loss, it can lead to better understanding and decreased frustration. Thankfully, hearing technology offers hope for hearing loss as well as relationships that have become strained as a result. Hearing aids, while not a cure, are the first line of defense and an invaluable tool in treating, preventing, and supporting hearing loss. If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing loss and miscommunication as a result, please call us today and let our audiologists help you enrich your relationships on your journey to better hearing!

Dr. Pam Matthews, Audiologist
Pro Hearing, LLC
9409 N May Avenue and 10404 S Pennsylvania Ave
Oklahoma City, OK