At the start of a new year, we’re eager to begin on a fresh footing. When you look back to the year gone by, you might have some regret or even some painful memories about how things have gone in your relationships. At the dawn of 2022, you might be eager to set things straight and to mend some of the wounds that have happened in 2021.
If you ask a relationship expert how to improve your relationships, undoubtedly the answer will have to do with communication. Some experts point to the importance of vulnerability, expressing things that help you build trust. Others emphasize active listening as a way to express that you are interested and concerned with what others have to say. No matter how communication is framed, it is the cornerstone of a strong relationship, and verbal communication is the most common way we build these bonds.
Although communication challenges extend to the deepest parts of ourselves, one thing can get in the way of strong communication that is a simple fact of bodily ability: hearing loss. When you have untreated hearing loss, a barrier is raised between yourself and others, making it more difficult to be vulnerable with others and to actively listen to what they have to say. Let’s examine these two dimensions of strong relationships, considering how hearing loss might be a barrier in the future.
Why is it important to be vulnerable with others? Our relationships are built on trust, and we need ways to know both that we can trust others and that we are being trusted by them. This two-way street can be established through instances in which trust is necessary, but these risky moments don’t often come along. Rather than waiting for an experience where trust needs to be built, we can take active steps in our relationships to create this sense of risk. Being vulnerable with someone else is a way to show that you are willing to take an emotional risk, trusting that they will be there for you. You can also take the opportunity of another person’s vulnerability as a moment to show that you won’t let them down. Your response to another’s vulnerability is the crucial moment in the relationship process, and your ability to hear precisely what they have to say is necessary to do this kind of building. If you have untreated hearing loss, that condition might be impeding the free flow of vulnerable disclosure between you.
Beyond these moments of disclosure that have an element of emotional risk, your everyday conversations are also a way to build trust. Though we might be concerned about trusting others to be there in moments of distress, we also need to trust them to accompany us through life’s journey. If you have ever been in the presence of someone who is not paying attention, you know how isolating and lonely that experience can be, sometimes even worse than actually being alone. Active listening is crucial to your relationships as a way to show that the other person is not alone. You are together with that person in the time you have, and you are interested in what they have to say. As you can see, active listening requires most people to be able to hear the details of what others say. If you have established a relationship under the assumption that you are able to hear one another, hearing loss can put up a wall that resounds into your relationship as well as the practical struggle to communicate.
This new year, don’t let hearing loss get in the way of your relationships any longer. Though it is easy to let a relationship suffer from poor communication, it takes action and effort to keep your relationships healthy. One simple step you can take is to schedule a hearing test. If you have undiagnosed hearing loss, you might be allowing that condition to impair your relationships, as well. Don’t put off getting your test any longer! If you wait to get assistance with your hearing, your relationships might be suffering in the meantime. All you need to do is make the call!