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  • Writer's picturePat Dobbs

Hearing For Two

Updated: Jul 12, 2019

When my hearing friend talked about her challenges living with her hearing loss husband, I encouraged her to share her feelings. After all, hearing loss is a communication disorder and affects both the person with hearing loss and the person they talk with. What follows is a result of our conversations.

I have normal hearing. My husband on the other hand has significant hearing loss. While it’s obvious that there’s an impact on the life of a person with hearing loss, there’s also an unrecognized impact on the partner with good hearing.

I’ve considered writing about this impact for some time but have been reluctant for fear of sounding selfish or appearing to paint myself as a victim. The last thing I want is for any person with hearing loss to think that their partner feels they are burden. I do think it’s important, though, to acknowledge that hearing loss not only affects a couple’s communication, but that it also affects them individually. Understanding the impact can lead to effective and creative strategies to reduce frustration for both parties.

I realized that I was hearing for two when, I became aware that I was usually on “high alert” when I was out with my husband. We manage at home most of the time because we have successful strategies. However, whether at a store, doctor’s office, social gathering, restaurant, museum, checking in at an airport or one of the many other places where hearing is important or critical, I am always poised to intervene and help him know what is being said, or asked of him. There are times when I feel the need to tell a friend or stranger, “He didn’t hear you” because of their puzzled look when he doesn’t respond or appears to ignore them.

The research I’ve done on the effect of hearing loss on the hearing partner has turned up little. Most articles provide tips for the spouse with normal hearing on how to communicate with their partner with hearing loss. The focus, and rightfully so, is on how frustrating and exhausting it is to have hearing loss and how one’s partner can help by communicating clearly. What usually isn’t mentioned is how exhausting it is to hear for two. It’s hard to relax knowing that your partner may be missing important information or that he or she is not feeling included in a social situation. The impulse to step in and help is always there and it’s hard to know when to intervene or wait to be asked.

One of the main challenges for both parties is managing the guilt felt by each. The partner with hearing loss doesn’t want to be a burden or too reliant on the hearing spouse and is reluctant to ask for things to be repeated or interpreted and the hearing spouse feels guilty for the occasional feelings of frustration. Open, caring, honest conversations on the most effective way to navigate hearing loss together, can provide insight into what each person is feeling and experiencing and help find solutions to reduce frustration.

Written by Claudia Sanders.


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9 則留言

Pat Dobbs
Pat Dobbs

I'm writing for Carol, the hearing wife..... At important conversations. like doctor's, lawyers, etc., Carol may have a tendency to turn to her hearing loss spouse and repeat what they had said. But the hearing loss spouse would get annoyed and say, if I have a problem, I will ask. But then, we'd get into the car, and he'd ask a question about what they'd said. And that would definitely annoy me. He should have said he didn't hear when we were with the professional.

Bottom line, it's very difficult to know if she should help or not - will he get annoyed, will he appreciate the help. It is a balancing act. Very difficult.

In addition, I desperately want…


Pat Dobbs
Pat Dobbs

I'm posting for a friend who asked not to be identified .........

My first reaction is that I could have written the article. Especially the paragraph about “ not wanting to paint herself as the victim”.

I am empathetic to a much larger population now..... not only the one with a disability, but the family and close friends.

My spouse's hearing loss slowly created a significant lack of communication between us. No one wants to repeat a “ difficult” conversation ..... so it was easier to avoid. Many times we would have misunderstandings. It was a daily struggle that we accepted as “just the way it was” and we didn’t talk about it. We hardly got together with friends anymore…



I have been in relationships with people who have hearing loss. I am presently in my mid 70's and relationships with people who have a hearing loss has become more prevalent. When I am aware that a person I am speaking with has a hearing loss, I sit across from him or her and enunciate with care after asking if the person can read lips. I ask a question to make sure that I am understood, and sometimes repeat back what the person has said before responding. I have found it to be frustrating in communication when I am not understood and the person I am talking to does not ask me to repeat what I said, and fills …


On Jul 15, 2019, at 11:02 AM, wrote: Pat, The article is right on. One of the reasons I wanted to go to the conference in Rochester was to learn how to communicate better with Deb my hearing loss partner. Even though the conference was incredible and I learned a lot that was one area of communicating missing or I missed it in the program. One of the problems I find when we are at a meeting were there are no closed captions is if Deb asks we what the person just said I can't stop my brain from listening answer Deb's question and then catch up to what the speaker is saying. I've also noticed that when we are with…


I just want to stress how important good communication is. We partners with hearing loss need to clearly define when and how we want our hearing partner to step in. For me, I always want to be included in group conversation that I'm a part of, and unless I have someone to help keep me clued in (letting me know when the subject changes, repeating some things I've missed, encouraging everyone in the group to share in helping me stay on top of the conversation), I get lost and eventually have to remove myself, as it doesn't feel good to be left hanging to wonder what everyone is saying. That doesn't mean I expect my spouse to do this all …

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