Managing Hearing Loss Around the Holidays

While the holiday season is often a fun, festive, full of gifts and family time, for those with hearing loss it can be a time filled with anxiety, stress, and social isolation.

Why?

  • Noisy holiday parties and family dinners can make it hard to hear
  • Lots of holiday phone conversations with far away friends and family can be problematic
  • Shorter days (earlier nights) and dim holiday lighting can make lip reading difficult in the dark
  • Constant background holiday music everywhere you go can make it hard to hear
  • Prolonged exposure to cold weather can negatively impact ear health and hearing aids

What Can People with Hearing Loss Do?

Embrace your “good side”

Plopping down at the middle of a large dinner table can leave you surrounded by 3 or 4 different conversations at a time, making it hard to hear and focus on a single one. Aim for sitting at the end of table where it is easier to center your attention on and hear the person with whom you are having a conversation. Sitting in a seat with a wall behind you may help block some background noise or music as well.

Speak up about speaking up

Don’t be afraid to let folks know that you need them to speak up so you can hear. Reminding them once encourages them to not only increase their volume, but focus their words and inflections in a way that aids your involvement in the conversation. Using visual cues like cupping or tapping your ear are also easily understood signs that you need someone to speak up or repeat themselves.

Ask a friend to help

Buddying up is never easier than at the holidays! Ask a friend to sit with you at a big dinner or join you at a holiday party to aid your hearing and help fill you in on conversations in noisy rooms.

Routinely check hearing aids

The hectic to and fro of the holiday season can leave even the most seasoned traveler frazzled and forgetting things. Don’t let your hearing aids fall prey to the busyness of the season. Make sure to check your batteries prior to going out, take extras when you travel, and clean and dry your hearing aids regularly.

Video chat instead of phone call

Video Chat for Hearing Loss

Live video chatting with friends and relatives during the holidays gives you a chance to amplify voice volume with computer speakers as well as see friends and family face to face to watch their expressions and lip movements. Easier than a phone call, live video chatting is free over WiFi with services like Skype, Google+ Hangouts, and Facetime.

What Can Family and Friends Do?

Turn up the lights

While dim lighting from a Christmas tree or romantic candlelight on the table might seem festive and intimate, it can make reading lips and facial expressions problematic for someone with hearing loss. Keep lighting bright and consistent across rooms when hosting a holiday gathering.

Turn background music off

The temptation to play holiday music in the background of each party or family dinner is hard to resist, but when it comes to experiencing hearing loss, background music is a major culprit. Keep background music to minimum levels or even completely off to help your friends and family with hearing loss (same goes for TV!).

Help older relatives video chat

Instead of having your aging parent or grandparent struggle through a phone call with distant relatives, consider setting them up with a live Skype or Facetime video chat. Use an overbed table to hold your laptop and raise it up and down as needed for your loved one, whether they are calling from bed, from their recliner, or their desk.

Additional Considerations

Preliminary findings from the SMART Lab out of Ryerson University in Toronto is discovering a potential link between learning to sing and improving hearing loss in noisy environments.

The task of separating speech from noise is largely a process of the brain, so hearing aids don’t always help, but research is showing that pitch training through singing may help those with hearing loss track frequency patterns to better follow conversations in a noisy room. As the holidays are filled with music, what better time to start singing, if only for your ears?

This was a guest post by Vive Health co-founder Joe Fleming. You can read more about Vive Health here.

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