When it comes to festive, boisterous Christmas gatherings with family and friends, few things are as frustrating as being unable to hear. Whether it’s trying to hold a conversation with your mate at the dinner table, or having to ask people to repeat themselves over loud holiday music at a party, difficulty hearing can feel embarrassing, annoying, and might even keep some seniors from getting out of the house to socialise.
In addition to holiday dinners and parties, hearing impairment might even make phone calls with friends and family far away more difficult. Shorter days with dimmer evenings combined with colder weather can also exacerbate hearing loss, making it harder to see people and read their lips.
If you struggle with hearing loss, don’t miss these essential tips for surviving (and enjoying!) the festive season:
Have your hearing aids checked regularly to monitor for battery power and functionality. Properly clean and dry your hearing aids daily with a soft, dry cloth, and don’t forget to pack extra backups if you are going on an extended trip.
Turn up the lights and turn the music down if you have company over. It might seem more festive to dine by candlelight or light from the Christmas tree, but your ability to see and follow someone’s lips can play a critical role in helping your brain better process what you are hearing. Loud background music can also inhibit your ability to pick up on speech patterns and words when you are talking with someone, so turning it down (or even off) can help.
Live video chat instead of calling friends and relatives. If hearing over the phone is difficult, live video chat on your computer or smartphone with free apps like Skype, Google+ Hangout, or Facetime. Your ability to see the person you are talking to and follow their lips and gestures can aid your hearing and understanding of the conversation.
Address hearing-related anxiety. Research has shown that people who experience hearing loss are also more likely to feel depressed, anxious, and other emotional instability. Make sure that you aren’t falling prey to the compounding stress of the festive season on top of frustration and anxiety surrounding your hearing impairment.
If you are avoiding large gatherings, skipping out on invitations to go out with friends, experiencing a false sense of friends or family being angry with you, or noticing negative changes in your own relationships, consider talking to someone about your mental state and seeking help. Hearing loss can actually have a significant impact on your emotional health without you even realising it.
Out and About
When you are out to dinner with friends or sitting at a large family gathering around the supper table, try and sit in a seat with a wall behind you. That barrier can help mitigate some of the environmental noise which makes hearing harder. Hearing impairment will often affect one ear worse than the other so try to sit with your good ear positioned towards the person you are speaking with as well.
Asking people to speak up might seem awkward or embarrassing at first, however, when you’re amidst family and friends at the holidays, people will want to make sure you can hear and are included. Employ visual cues that indicate you need someone to speak up like cupping your ear. The person you are speaking with will note this cue and understand to not just increase their volume and focus towards you but ennunciate and inflect more to make sure you can hear.
Requesting your spouse or a friend help you out at a large, noisy gathering can benefit you as well. Your husband or wife, for example, can sit with you at dinner and fill you in on parts of a conversation you’re both sharing with someone else. A buddy will also help you feel more comfortable and at ease so you can truly enjoy your time out!
Hearing loss and hearing impairment require you to adapt and find new ways to understand and engage with people. At the holidays this might seem even harder, but with clever tips and smart reminders about music, lighting, and body placement, you can make the most of what hearing you have and enjoy your time with family and friends.
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