Hearing Loss and Interrupting

sweebyNovember 7, 2006

My DH is a wonderful man and we have a really great marriage. But he's damaged his hearing over the years, and it's gotten to the point where it's starting to affect our relationship. He doesn't always hear me when I speak to him, and as a result, he sometimes ignores me, mishears me, and interrupts.

When I tell/ask him something the first time, I'm almost always pleasant, second time more neutral, but the third time, I'm annoyed - and it shows in my voice. But if he missed it the first two times, he just gets the annoyed version and gets his feelings hurt. When he doesn't respond to something I've said, I never know if it's because he feels no response is necessary or if he hasn't heard me. So I either repeat it, or ask if he heard me - sometimes annoying him. (For those of you who are wondering, I actually don't talk all that much, so I'm pretty sure it's not a case of him tuning me out.) There are the countless times he either misheard or misunderstood me. Then he'll go into a long and detailed explanation of something that's only marginally related to what I asked. And when I get annoyed that he's completely missed the point, he gets his feelings hurt again. Or if I simply restate the original question, then he gets annoyed that I "didn't ask that the first time" when of course, I did!

Then there's the interrupting. He's really quite a talker, and will frequently start talking when someone else is already speaking. If it's pointed out that he interrupted, he'll typically deny it, then sulk about how "nobody cares what he has to say". I can't count the number of times he's cut me off when I was speaking to someone else, and it really hurts my feelings. When he sees the look on my face or if I mention it to him later in private, he's always very sorry -- but then it happens again. He's *not* a rude or inconsiderate person, but I think his constant interrupting makes it look like he is.

He did agree to a hearing test a few years ago, no doubt figuring that would 'shut me up' about his 'alleged' hearing problems, but wouldn't you know, the tests showed losses ranging from moderate to profound in the frequency ranges most used for speech. His hearing was typical of a man in his late 70's to early 80's. Of course, they recommended hearing aids. But DH is in his early 50's and his vanity is still alive and well. He nixed that idea very quickly.

I've discussed the issue with him a few times, but it's clearly a sensitive spot for him. It's quickly becomming a sensitive spot for me too!

Any words of wisdom?

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I think if you're able to separate personality issues from a real handicap it may be able to help you. How would you treat a child of yours that had a hearing problem? I would think your frustration level may go down if you treat him as if he has a real handicap. Now, if you think it is really more of a personality problem, then that would be a separate issue.

But, bottom line, he can't hear well. Go up to him to talk, write stuff down, wave at him to get his attention first, etc. Regarding the interuptions, ask him to pay close attention to your mannerisms and mouth to see if you are talking before he starts in. I would think his "interuptions" would be a problem for many people (co-worker's, etc) and could bring about some major social/professional problems if not addressed. He needs to understand this, and want to work on it.

And, lastly, I see no good reason why a 50 yr. would be against wearing a hearing aid. They are so small nowadays; most people don't even notice them. If he can't hear, he can't hear. I just don't get the vanity thing. He would rather live in a world not hearing then put something the size of a pea in his ear everyday. What's his take on bad eyesight?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 1:28PM
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Ah, been there done that. DH has congenital hearing loss, and even after 20+ years of living with him, we still have the same issues. He does wear hearing aids, and we still have the problem. #1 answer of course is to convince him to get hearing aids. That is easier said than done. #2 is to make sure you have his attention before you start talking. Make sure you keep patient. AND when he puts you between that rock and hard place for trying to make sure he hears AND understands you (not the same thing, believe me I know), make sure he knows he's doing that. It's not fair to you.

Maybe you could come up with a "Code" when he's interrupting...Like..."Remember Aunt Ida's ashtray, sorry but I broke it yesterday"...no Aunt Ida, no ashtray, just nice subtle reminder that HEY NUMNUT, YOU'RE INTERRUPTING AGAIN. (doesn't work with my husband, but maybe it will with yours, I have to be less subtle with mine)


    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 2:03PM
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Thanks Vickey and Carla -

Carla - I realize it's a disability issue. But the thing is -- it's a voluntary disability. One he could cure in a few hours for a few thousand $$. I have a lot more patience for disabilities that *can't* be cured. And I do think his interuptions are annoying other people as well -- his aunt mentioned it to me the other day and I got some questioning looks from a friend the other day when he cut me off mid-sentence to ask her a totally unrelated question.

"#1 answer of course is to convince him to get hearing aids. That is easier said than done."
Nice to hear from someone who's been there! So how do you suggest I convince him?

And how to cope with the times he isn't wearing them? Even if I can persuade him to get hearing aids, he'll probably only wear them during the evenings, which will leave me with a good portion of the day 'unaided'. (He's a professional remodeler and is working on our home. So lots of power tools you don't particularly want to hear better.) I do make sure to get his attention first during the daytime -- but he usually doesn't hear me coming (even though I try to make noise). Then he jumps as if I've snuck up on him -- which I sort of have...

    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 3:42PM
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Find a local audiologist who sells Oticon Syncro -- top of the heap in hearing aid technology at this time. Arrange in advance to for the provider to have a sample unit on-site that your DH can actually try out. It will change both of your lives. The units have all the power he'll need and its multiple frequencies can be precisely tuned to the individual -- and be tweaked over time as things change.

My 94-year mother had the first generation ten years ago. They lasted like new for that entire time. The new ones are third generation and much improved over those. They're expensive but quite durable.

The personality thing is always a curse, but the solution is really quite straitforward. If your husband WANTS to hear, he can. His blaming the shortcoming on everyone else is a pity.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 4:03PM
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Hi sweeby - I lost total hearing in my left ear as the result of a brain tumor. It is a daily struggle to participate in conversations, but I work really hard at trying to listen when someone is speaking to me, I give them my undivided attention. I do have to ask people to repeat, and most of the time it isn't a problem. There are many times that I am not aware someone is talking to me, so they literally need to be in my face LOL

It is obvious that you are really trying to work with your hubby, and I see your frustration. I know my hubby has to constantly be aware when he is speaking to me and it is alot of work for him as well. Sounds like maybe your hubby is in denial? Especially having profound hearing loss at only 50.

Wish he would go to an audiologist because there are so many wonderful hearing devices available. Some so small that you can't see them in the ear.

It has been 8 years since I lost my hearing and there has not been anything on the market that would help me. My hearing nerve was removed. Anyway, there is a brand new device that was just approved and I will be getting mine next week. I am very excited!! I know it will not replicate what I had pre-brain tumor, but it will sure make life easier for me and everyone around me.

Hang in there!!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 6:15PM
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My sister just had an operation (two, actually) that restored her hearing. She was wearing hearing aids previously. They did one ear at a time, just in case it didn't work. The operation only works for certain kinds of hearing problems, but there may be other therapies. Linked below is a very comprehensive website about hearing loss.

Maybe you can enlist one or more of his friends to mention it to him? Hearing it, (no pun intended), from someone other than you, especially a friend, might help.

Good luck, I can feel your frustration.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hearing Loss

    Bookmark   November 12, 2006 at 10:10AM
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We have the same problem--almost total loss of hearing in one ear. The VA's response to my complaint that he has to position me on one side of his body when we're talking was "well, we don't recommend a hearing aid because his other ear is perfectly fine." That was all he needed to justify not getting one on his own.

We have a rule that he must answer me when I'm speaking--I don't talk a lot either when it's just me and him so there is no excuse to not acknowledge me. If he doesn't respond, I repeat everything I said over and over until he responds (I was the youngest child in my family and got quite adept at being annoying when I want to). I don't usually have to resort to that anymore.

Not sure of the answer to the interruptions. He does that as well--mostly while driving when he has to verify to everyone in the car that he is a better driver than everyone else on the road. Mostly I just give him the "look" and refuse to finish my story. He can usually remember for a while before he lapses back into interrupting.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2006 at 3:01PM
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Yo, dktrahan....

Having only one good ear myself, I recently explored this alternative: BAHA = Bone Anchored Hearing Aid. For many people with only one good ear, it's been a godsend. I just learned I am not a candidate but perhaps you would be. They have a non-invasive head-band device that approximates the performance of the actual implant so you could get some indication of whether or not it could work for you without having to guess at it. Don't know if VA would contribute. Info here:

http://www.umm.edu/otolaryngology/baha.html (info about the device)

http://www.baha-users-support.com/cgi-bin/2bb/2bb.cgi (user's group and forums)

    Bookmark   November 21, 2006 at 4:55PM
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PS to dktrahan...responding to your other observations.....

What you've described indicates impared hearing with the "good" ear as well. However, from your description -- the VA saying his "good" ear is "perfectly fine" -- I have little doubt you're dealing with behaviorial issues rather than actual hearing loss. The reason I have this opinion is that my own "good" ear was just tested and verified. I have none of the issues with my speakers you've described whether in the car or not. When I don't hear clearly, I do ask my speakers to repeat. When I don't respond, my speakers do get my attention and repeat -- which I welcome.

One must learn to deal with one's problems. It's a mistake to burden others with with one's own deficiencies. It's a matter or courtesy as well as responsibility IMHO.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2006 at 6:24PM
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Some good ideas so far - thanks.
By the way, I should clarify that I think the interrupting is because of the hearing loss. He'll start speaking because he's not aware that someone else is already talking.

We had a 'discussion' about it yesterday -- well, actually, more of a 'tiff'. I had told him something on three separate occasions, and he hadn't heard me any of those times. I finally flat-out told him "Your hearing loss is affecting our relationship" and left the room. We then had a slightly calmer discussion a few hours later where he basically said he won't wear a hearing aid and that he'll appologize when he mis-hears.

Anyway - I really like the rule about "he must answer me when I'm speaking" and think I'll propose that today -- good timing, so to speak. Wish me luck!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 10:45AM
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Hi Asolo - I am also not a candidate for the BAHA, due to extreme head sensitivity, but just purchased a TransEar that works on the same principal, but does not require surgery. It looks like a regular hearing aid and is worn in the bad ear. No need for two hearing aids, as with the Cros. TransEar just came out last year. I am scheduled to pick it up next Thursday..very excited!!!


    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 8:05PM
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Yo, matti5....

Thanks for this post. Until reading it I was not aware of this alternative. Will check it out for myself. Wish you well with your own. C'mon back here after a while and tell us how it works for you, please.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 10:38PM
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