You Can Still Enjoy the Holiday Season Despite Hearing Loss

Family enjoying Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner together around the dining table at grandmother's home

Gatherings. So many family gatherings.

During the holidays, it probably seems like you’re meeting (or re-meeting) a new long-lost uncle every other weekend. That’s the charm (and, some might say, the curse) of the holiday season. Usually, this kind of annual catching up is something that’s easy to look forward to. You get to check in on everyone and see what they’re up to!

But when you have hearing loss, those family gatherings might feel a little less welcoming. Why is that? What are the impacts of hearing loss at family gatherings?

Hearing loss can interfere with your ability to communicate–and with others’ ability to communicate with you. The end result can be a discouraging feeling of alienation, and it’s an especially distressing sensation when it occurs around the holidays. Hearing specialists and professionals have developed some go-to tips that can help make your holidays more enjoyable–and more fulfilling–when you have hearing loss.

Tips to help you enjoy the holiday season

There’s so much to see around the holidays–lights, food, gifts, and more. But there’s also so much to hear: how Uncle Bob lost his third finger (what?!), how Julie is doing in school, how Nancy got promoted–it keeps going.

These tips are designed to help make sure you keep having all of those moments of reconnection over the course of holiday get-togethers.

Avoid phone calls – Use video instead

Nobody likes using Zoom for work. But for friends and family, video calls can be a great way to keep in touch. That’s especially true if you have hearing loss. If you have hearing loss and you want to touch base with loved ones over the holidays, try using video calls instead of standard phone calls.

Phones represent an interesting conundrum when it comes to hearing loss and communication challenges. The voice that comes through the phone speaker can feel garbled and hard to understand–and that makes what should be a pleasant phone call vexing indeed. With a video call, the audio quality won’t necessarily improve–but you’ll have much more information to help you communicate. From body language to facial expressions, video calls provide added context, and that will help the conversation flow better.

Be honest with people

Hearing loss is incredibly common. If you need help, it’s important to communicate that! There’s no harm in asking for:

  • Your friends and family to speak a little slower when they’re talking to you.
  • People to repeat things–but requesting that they rephrase as well.
  • Conversations to occur in quieter areas of the get-together (more on this in a bit).

When people know that you have hearing loss, they’re less likely to get irritated if you need something repeated more than once. As a result, communication tends to flow a little bit easier. In a funny way, being honest with your hearing loss will likely help your family focus more on successful communication–and a little less on the health of your hearing.

Choose your areas of conversation carefully

During the holidays, there are always topics of conversation you want to avoid. So, you’re strategic (you don’t just come out and ask Uncle Bob what happened to his third finger, for example–you wait for him to bring it up). When you have hearing loss, this goes double–only instead of scooting around certain topics of conversation, you should carefully avoid specific spaces in a home which make hearing conversations more challenging.

Here’s how to handle it:

  • Try to find an area of the gathering area that’s a little bit quieter. Maybe that means sneaking away from the noisy furnace or excusing yourself from areas of overlapping conversations.
  • Try to find areas that have less motion–fewer people walking by and distracting you. This’ll make it easier to focus on the lips of the people talking to you (and help you lip read as a result)
  • By the same token, keep your conversations to places that are well-lit (we’re not suggesting that you have family get-togethers in dark alleys… but winter can get dark in a hurry). If there isn’t enough light, you won’t be able to pick up on context clues or read lips.
  • Try to sit with your back to a wall. That way, there’ll be less background noise for you to have to filter through.

Okay, okay–but what if your niece starts talking to you in the noisy kitchen, where you’re filling your mug with holiday cocoa? She knows the story behind Uncle Bob’s lost third finger, but it’s far too noisy in the common area to understand what she’s saying. In cases like this, there are a couple of things you can do:

  • Ask your niece to continue the conversation someplace where it’s a little quieter.
  • Politely start walking towards an area of the gathering place where you can hear and focus better. Be sure to explain that’s what you’re doing.
  • If there’s music playing in the area, politely ask the host to turn the music down so you can hear your niece a little better.

Communicate with the flight crew

So, you’re thinking: what are the impacts of hearing loss at family gatherings that are less obvious? You know, the ones you don’t see coming?

Many people fly around the holidays–it’s especially important for families that are pretty spread out. When you fly, it’s important to understand all the instructions and communication coming from the flight crew. Which is why it’s extra important to tell the flight crew that you have trouble hearing or experience hearing loss. That way, the flight crew can provide you with visual instructions if necessary. When you’re flying, it’s important not to miss anything!

Take breaks

When you have hearing loss, communication can become a lot of work. You might find yourself growing more tired or exhausted than you used to. As a result it’s important to take frequent breaks. This will give your ears–and, maybe more importantly, your brain–a little bit of time to catch a breath.

Get some hearing aids

How does hearing loss affect relationships? Well, as should be clear at this point–in a lot of ways!

That’s why most hearing specialists will recommend hearing aids. One of the greatest benefits of hearing aids is that they will make almost every interaction with your family over the holidays easier and more satisfying. With your hearing aids properly calibrated, you’ll be able to hear conversations and finally find out why Uncle Bob has been avoiding power tools. And, best yet, you won’t have to keep asking people to repeat themselves.

In other words, hearing aids will help you reconnect to your family.

It may take you some time to get used to your hearing aids. So it’s advisable that you pick them up as well in advance as possible. Of course, everyone’s experience will be different. So talk to your hearing specialist about the timing.

You don’t have to navigate the holidays alone

When you have hearing loss, sometimes it can feel like no one understands what you’re going through–and that you have to do it all alone. In this way, it’s almost like hearing loss affects your personality. But you aren’t alone. Your hearing specialist can help you navigate many of these dilemmas.

The holidays don’t have to be a time of trepidation or anxiety (that is, any more than they usually are). With the right approach, you can look forward to seeing–and hearing–your family around this time of year.

Want more information?

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