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5 adaptations to make in a deaf-hearing relationship

adaptations in a deaf-hearing relationship
Successful relationships involve compromise and understanding. In the case of couples where one person has hearing loss, this is even more important.

I have bilateral severe to profound hearing loss and wear hearing aids. My boyfriend, Joe, is hearing. Over time, we’ve figured out several adaptations for communicating in our relationship.

Here are five ways we’ve adapted in out deaf-hearing relationship:

Ordering and Buying Food

Because of the pandemic and the difficulty masks pose, whenever we go out somewhere, Joe answers for me. If we are getting takeout, we always try to order online or through the app. When neither of those is available, I look at the menu beforehand and tell Joe my order. He handles it after that. The same goes if we are checking out at a store. I just let him handle it for the convenience.

Pre-pandemic, I tried to do these things myself and looked to him if I needed help. There is a huge downward shift in independence because of masks. It can be frustrating. Sometimes having others step in is easiest. Just know you’re not alone in the way you feel. We’re all overwhelmed and frustrated.

Read more: Face masks for hearing aid users

Talking Before Bed

I can’t hear speaking voices when I take my hearing aids out, but I can hear if someone talks directly into my ear. That can be uncomfortable and inconvenient when trying to have a conversation. If Joe and I want to talk after I’ve taken my hearing aids out at night, we prefer to text instead of me lipreading. It’s easier for both of us and ensures I’ll know everything he’s saying. If it’s something really important, I’ll put my hearing aids back in. Most of the time we stick to texting and it works really well.

Read more: The truth of being intimate with hearing loss

Watching Movies

Movie theaters and closed captioning technology can sometimes be more of a hassle than its worth. Most of the time, I want to just watch a movie comfortably rather than dealing with a bulky cup holder appliance or glasses. Because of this, we prefer to stay in and watch a movie on Netflix or Hulu.

Read more: 5 deaf actors to watch on Netflix


While people with hearing loss CAN drive, sometimes we prefer not to so that we can communicate. Because I need to look at the person to understand what they’re saying, that doesn’t mix well with driving. Eyes on the road are always a priority. We usually don’t talk when I am driving and just listen to music instead. Ninety-five percent of the time, Joe drives so we can still talk in the car. Luckily, he likes driving. If your significant other doesn’t, talk about it until you reach a situation where you both are happy.

“While people with hearing loss CAN drive, sometimes we prefer not to so that we can communicate.”

Read more: Why it’s important to negotiate with your hearing partner

Educating Family Members

Before I met Joe’s parents for the first time, he told them I had hearing loss and the best way to talk to me to ensure I could understand them. They arranged the table differently so I could see everyone’s faces, and were patient with me when I asked them to repeat things. They also made sure they were facing me before they started speaking and spoke clearly.

His educating them beforehand was a simple adaptation for this deaf-hearing relationship and made this first meeting such a positive experience. I was able to focus on meeting them and getting to know them rather than being stressed about hearing. Sometimes the fear of not hearing takes away from special moments, which is why it’s so important to educate beforehand. They also asked me so many questions about my hearing loss, which made me really happy because I love educating others about it.

Read more: How to best communicate with someone with hearing loss 

Author Details
I am a hard of hearing powerlifter who is passionate about advocacy for the deaf and hard of hearing. I am in my third year of college studying business and I hope to one day start my own company for the deaf and hard of hearing!