The holidays bring families and friends together for dinners, parties and other special events. Unfortunately, if you have a hearing loss, this also can be a frustrating season as you struggle to hear in challenging listening environments, like restaurants or in theaters. What can you do to improve the odds that you won’t miss a word at these gatherings?
See an Audiologist Sooner Not Later
First and foremost, if you suspect you have a hearing loss, get your hearing tested as soon as possible. A comprehensive hearing evaluation performed by a doctoral-level audiologist is the best way to determine whether you have a hearing loss, as well as how mild or severe it might be.
If you have a hearing loss, listen to your audiologist’s recommendations for hearing aid technology. Your audiologist should ask about your lifestyle, budget and goals, then recommend technology appropriate just for you.
If you’re thinking you want to wear your new hearing aids at that special holiday party, don’t delay. It takes time to schedule an appointment, be fit, and adjust to better hearing. You’ll be more comfortable and should be able to perform better if you’ve had a chance to wear them for several days.
Tips for Hearing in a Crowd
In addition to wearing hearing aids, here are a few more tips to help you communicate with friends and family during the holidays if you’re challenged in difficult listening environments:
- Look for a quiet, out-of-the-way area to talk. When everyone is in the same room, the noise level gets louder and louder as more people join the group - that makes it difficult for someone with hearing loss to join in the conversation. If you’re hosting an event, you might think about designating a “quiet room” for those who have difficulty hearing.
- Sit, or ask your host to seat you, on your “better side” to improve hearing at the dinner table. Look for a spot where you’ll be able to make eye contact with others and can read their lips if they’re talking. If you’re hosting and you have a hearing loss, assign yourself to a seat that makes the most of your hearing. Likewise, if you’re aware of any guests with hearing problems, take their needs into account when assigning seats.
- Candlelight goes with the holidays, but keep the lights on so that anyone with hearing loss can read lips and follow the conversation easier. Well-lit places help people with hearing loss to pick up on visual clues. Visual cues can help you fill in the conversation blanks and ensure your attention is focused on listening. Vision may improve understanding up to 40 percent!
- Don’t be shy about asking for help - most hosts would be glad if you did! For example, if the television volume is too loud, ask if it can be turned down so you can hear better, or if you’re watching a movie with friends or family, ask if the closed captioning can be turned on so you don’t have to strain to hear.
- Family, friends and spouses should expect they may need to repeat what was said more often when you’re at holiday gatherings and in challenging listening environments. Ask your conversation partner to speak at a slower rate. This gives your brain time to process what is being said and fills in any information you were unable to understand.
Choose the Right Technology
You also might consider investing in advanced hearing and assistive technology. It can help by better highlighting speech from other background noise. Some hearing assistive devices available include Bluetooth technology, integrated applications, customized programs, noise reduction algorithms, remote microphones, and digital, adaptive multi-directional microphones. Your audiologist can recommend the best technology for your circumstances.