Three tips for connecting with a loved one who has hearing challenges
People cognitively understand that some challenges, such as hearing loss, are inevitable as we get older. Neither person involved may enjoy the challenge of connection that hearing loss may bring, but there are ways to cope that help everyone involved.
Learn to make and receive overt bids that visually cue connection and conversation
Throughout the day, we may make hundreds of bids for emotional connection. This may be verbalizing something, giving a hug, or making a joke. When the other person responds to that bid for connection, such as laughing at a joke, it creates a positive interaction. Relationships thrive on these types of interactions. They make space for easier access to humor, affection, and curiosity towards each other even during conflict.
With hearing loss, it is easier for vocal bids for connection to be missed. Knowing this, we can work together to be more overt and clear about our bids for connection.
Some practical tools include:
- making eye contact and asking, “Can I talk to you? I want to connect.”
- making a physical gesture to cue that you’re wanting to connect
- touching an arm or shoulder indicating you want to say something or desire to connect.
By using more visual and physical cues, it can help the person with the hearing loss be more mindful of our bid for connection—thus empowering them to engage more often and strengthening the overall bond.
Dialog about the hearing loss using The Gottman-Rapport Method
How we talk about the impacts of hearing loss on our bond influences the level of connection or disconnection. Avoiding the perpetual problem of hearing loss in conversations can lead to emotional disengagement.
It’s okay to talk about something that is happening to us or happening to someone we love that impacts our relationship. When done gently, it can lead to a stronger connection even when facing difficulties communicating.
If you are the person experiencing the hearing loss, here are some tools that Drs. John and Julie Gottman suggest for speaking in ways that help you to be heard.
Help your partner understand your side in 3 Steps.
- Transform criticisms into wishes.
- Recognize there are always two views to every conflict and that understanding must precede advice.
- When listening to the other person, focus on listening to understand, not to reply defensively. When doing so, connect with their feelings, don’t try to fix them.
Self-soothe using relationship enhancing thoughts
At times both people in the relationship may get extremely frustrated and find themselves having strong feelings and negative thoughts. It’s important to take deep breaths and remind yourself that it is most likely the hearing loss causing disconnection, not your loved one.
Hearing loss affects everyone’s relationships in a unique way. However, when you work together to intentionally see and respond to each other, you can enjoy a rich relationship of mutual respect and understanding.