Sweethearts: Couples Living with Sensory Loss

couples with sensory loss

“Some think love can be measured by the amount of butterflies in their tummy. Others think love can be measured in bunches of flowers, or by using the words ‘for ever.’ But love can only truly be measured by actions. It can be a small thing, such as peeling an orange for a person you love because you know they don’t like doing it.”
— Marian Keyes
February is here, and love is in the air. As Valentine’s Day approaches, how are you and your sweetheart nurturing and strengthening your relationship? For those couples living with sensory loss, this question takes on new meaning now and throughout the year. It’s not just about flowers and candy or time spent together over a romantic dinner. It’s about staying connected even when the extra challenges of sensory loss test the relationship.
Sensory loss is more common than you may think, too.

  • At least 1 in 6 Americans has or will have a sensory or communication disorder in his or her lifetime.
  • As much as 94 percent of aging adults experience a loss of at least one sense or more. These numbers are staggering and underline just how widespread sensory loss is.
  • Approximately 15% of American adults over the age of 18 have some trouble hearing.
  • Over 3 million Americans age 40 and older are legally blind or visually impaired.

Many of these numbers are only expected to grow in the coming years. So how do these losses affect our most important relationships?
Couples with sensory loss
Maintaining a strong relationship with your partner can be hard enough without a sensory loss. In a recent review of study data, researchers explored just what steps couples living with sensory loss took to maintain their relationship and what they would recommend to other couples in similar situations.
Using data from two small previous studies, the team pieced together answers to the question “What advice would you give to other couples who are living with sensory loss?” into several common themes. The studies included both those with dual sensory loss (deafblind) and those with hearing loss or who were visually impaired. Here’s what they found:

  • The importance of support and assistance: Whether it was friends and family, a support group, counselors, rehabilitation specialists, technology, a partner or health care practitioners, this was a common recommendation for both individual health and wellness and the health of relationships.
  • Communication: As in any relationship, participants stressed the importance of communication and mutual support within the relationship. The findings of the studies showed that “feeling supported was linked to showing understanding, patience, and acceptance.”
  • Maintaining a positive mindset and outlook: Not only was this highlighted as a way for the individuals with sensory loss to better cope, but it was also shared as a must for fostering an easier and more caring relationship with the individual’s spouse. Specifically, “making it easier for partners to want to help each other.’

Perhaps the foundations of any strong relationship are similar with or without sensory loss. These findings, however, offer a deeper insight into the nuances of relationships shared by those couples living with sensory loss.

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