Hearing Loss at Holiday Events
Navigating The Noise
The holiday season is officially upon us, and all the joyous festivities and family gatherings that come with it! But if you are suffering from hearing loss, big family get-togethers can present a unique set of obstacles. It isn’t always obvious to others what you’re experiencing, and it can be easy to misinterpret hearing challenges as frustration, anger, or withdrawal.
Here are some of the biggest hurdles to happy holiday get-togethers can come from these common holiday elements:
- Background music, which can overwhelm older-style hearing aids
- Multiple conversations happening all at once, usually in a small or confined space
- Bouncing sounds from hard tile floors and kitchen countertops
- Embarrassment at not being able to follow the conversation or needing to ask “what” frequently
These types of environmental factors can make it tempting to simply skip the event, or “tune out” instead of participating, but don’t give up just yet! With a few simple tweaks, this holiday season can be fun and enjoyable for all.
Have an open, honest conversation about your hearing loss
Talking about your hearing loss and your feelings of frustration during family gatherings is an important first step. People who have never experienced hearing loss or have never used a hearing aid likely have no idea what you’re feeling. Take a moment and share what works and what doesn’t, so everyone can work together to create a welcoming and comforting environment for the holiday festivities.
Consider turning off the holiday music
Background music can overwhelm people with hearing loss, and some hearing aids and make more “competition” for what you’re trying to hear and understand. Try keeping the background music to a minimum, or if possible, eliminating it all together, at least for a period.
Think about your house like a “sound map”
Identify who and what makes the most noise during your holiday events, and use that to make “quiet spaces” in your home. Some examples could be keeping the kids’ table in a different room to make conversation easier to follow at the main table, or if you’d like to have the football game on during dinner, keep the TV in another room, or muted with the captions on.
Encourage “couch conversations”
This is a great way to engage in meaningful, one-on-one conversations without a bunch of competing background noise. Plus, the sofa has the added benefit of being a soft, sound-absorbing environment, making it a reprieve from the acoustic harshness of other home spaces.
Use your hands to communicate
If you can’t hear something, don’t be afraid to use the classic “I can’t hear you” signal! Simply cup your hand around your ear. This is a great way to unobtrusively let people know they need to speak up, and the extra surface area around your ear actually does help amplify the sound. This is a great alternative to verbal cues, and helps your friends and family adjust to your needs in real time.
Take a walk
Since most holiday celebrations are centered around food, a nice little walk is always a great idea! Getting in motion after a big meal is great for digestion, and can also be a great opportunity to catch up on the conversation with little ones, away from other noises and distractions.
Don’t give up
It can be easy to give in to the desire to simply nod along and pretend you are following the conversation, but you aren’t doing you or your loved ones any favors in the long run. If you can’t hear or if the music or background sounds are drowning out the conversation, let people know. More often than not, just a few small changes are all that is needed to make a huge difference.
Practice wearing your hearing aids
Practice wearing your hearing aids, if you don’t already. If you’re new to wearing hearing aids, it can be stressful or downright overwhelming to suddenly receive so much auditory input. You don’t need to go from zero to sixty overnight. Take the time to get used to your hearing aids a few hours at a time, working your way up to being able to comfortably wear them all day. It’s important to remember that you’re making a dramatic change to your brain’s sensory input. Be kind to yourself as you adjust and give yourself run-up time before the holiday to “break in” your hearing aids.
Consider a new hearing aid
If you’ve been using the same hearing aid for several years, it’s worth it to go check out what new options might be available to you. Hearing aid technology has advanced rapidly in the last few years, with changes in the look and feel, as well as the sensitivity and placement of the microphones.