Valentine’s Day is an annual chance to express your love and thankfulness for the fantastic people in your life, particularly your significant other. For many of us, this involves giving flowers or chocolates, preparing breakfast in bed, or going out for dinner and drinks with that special someone. But, for those of us who live with hearing loss, it can be tricky to fully experience such a special day in a world created by and for hearing people.
While many people with hearing loss find that it can be difficult to fully enjoy a holiday, a new study has investigated the value and benefits of support that a significant other can provide for a partner with hearing loss, thus sparking a conversation about how we can create the best possible experience for our loved ones during the holidays and throughout the year.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Montreal, investigated the coping and support mechanisms at play in relationships where one or both partners experience some form of sensory loss, both hearing and visual. Before conducting this study, the researchers noticed that most information about support for people with sensory loss comes from researchers and specialists, without taking into account the voices of people who actually experience hearing loss. In an effort to change this practice, the researchers focused their study on actual couples living with acquired sensory loss.
The data in this study were drawn from two sources: in-person interviews with 12 couples in Denmark with acquired deafblindness and an online survey of 72 adults with sensory loss and 39 of their spouses. The couples in both studies were asked, “What advice would you give to other couples who are living with sensory loss?” and their advice is both unique and insightful.
Advice For Couples With Hearing Loss
While no two couples with sensory loss will have the same experiences, couples with newly developed hearing loss may find it difficult to navigate their new world or to support each other in the initial stages of their new condition. The advice from people who have experienced these difficulties firsthand can be incredibly helpful as couples re-establish norms and support mechanisms in the face of new adversity. Here’s what participants in the study recommend:
- Seek out peer support. While many healthcare professionals may suggest that people with new sensory loss diagnoses seek out counseling and therapy services, many people with hearing loss find that peer support and patient-led organizations are particularly helpful in learning to live one’s best life even with sensory loss.
- Be open and honest with your partner. If you have a new hearing loss diagnosis, you may naturally turn to your partner for support. But, as this is a new experience for both of you, it’s important to be honest about what you need to feel supported. Moreover, patience and understanding are key to accepting the new sensory loss while also respecting each person’s independence and choices.
- Discuss what your partner can do to support you in public situations. For many people with newly diagnosed, sensory loss having to rely on others to interact in public can be a difficult new process to get used to. To best support a partner without diminishing their independence, it’s important to discuss how you can help them get the most out of a public conversation before they happen.
- Focus on what someone can do, not what they can’t. In the deaf community, there’s a common saying that the only thing a deaf person can’t do is hear. This is an incredibly important thing to remember when faced with a new sensory loss diagnosis. While it’s easy to concentrate on the things that someone can no longer do or experience, focusing more on what someone can do can be empowering and affirming.
Although living with sensory loss can be challenging, a supportive, open, and understanding partner can help bring a positive attitude to the mix. Even those of us without sensory loss have a lot to learn from the support mechanisms in place within couples with sensory loss.