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Hearing Loss Affects Loving Relationships Adversely—One Wife's Story

The following comes courtesy of Karen Arbogast.

Call me biased, but I believe I married the best man in the world.

Joe’s long list of talents included a mechanical ability bordering on genius. While I rummaged through the packing materials for my new exercise bike searching for assembly instructions, Joe put it together.

Joe was ahead of his time. In the late 1980s, he brought home a computer. Within hours, we were speeding down what used to be called “the information superhighway.” We were the first in our crowd to go online.

Because Joe was a retired Cincinnati police officer, he was the one his family and mine leaned on in times of trouble. He took care of his mother and his elderly aunt and provided practical help and advice to my own mother after my father died.

But no relationship is perfect. Ours wasn’t either.

Joe was profoundly hard of hearing. Over the years, Joe purchased several hearing aids. He didn’t wear them regularly.

“Stop mumbling.”

“I’m not mumbling.”

“Speak UP!”

“I don’t want the whole world to hear....”

“The whole what? To wear what? Stop mumbling.”

“I’m not...”

“Huh? (Expletive) SPEAK UP! (Expletive)

Instead of speaking up, I gave up. I don’t remember having a well-modulated conversation with my husband for ... 20 years? We were loud in the car; louder in the house; and loudest of all in public places.

Nothing valuable gets said when a couple shouts, when one partner must repeat and enunciate every syllable while the other loses patience. Our attempts at conversation exhausted me and exasperated him.

Sad indeed! There is so much I wanted to share with him; so much I longed for him to share with me.

If you think hearing loss doesn’t affect a relationship—it does. My husband died September 26, 2011, leaving much between us unsaid and unheard.

Freelance writer Karen R. Arbogast, a retired public employee, lives in Price Hill with her two dogs, Buffy and Trixer.

This story was first published in The Cincinnati Enquirer.