Do you consider yourself normally well-adjusted in terms of your hearing loss – yet find it bothers you more at this time of year?
If so, you’re not alone. Even persons who live gracefully with their hearing loss may have an inner, subterranean space where it’s just not OK.
This firepit of emotions lies dormant until ignited by – well, by almost anything. Especially at this time of year, when emotions run higher than usual, and especially this year, with so much going on in the world.
What fuels these flareups?
- You love Christmas music, but you can’t enjoy it like you used to, before your hearing started to go. Or, rather than beautiful music, it has become background noise.
- Your family, amid the excitement, the food and the drink, forget about your hearing loss. They don’t notice that you’ve dropped out of the conversation, or even out of the room! You must constantly remind them.
- The sound of cutlery, dishes, chairs scraping, and four conversations going on at the same time, build up in your head to a cacophony. This is the kind of holiday music that offers no pleasure, just pain.
- When you ask for something to be repeated, responses range from ‘it doesn’t matter’ or ‘hang on a moment’ to no response at all.
- Hey, it’s your family, not random strangers – they’re supposed to love you and support you, but you’re not feeling it!
- All the above and many more…
Hearing loss changes lives. It changes our communication, which is the glue that connects us on many levels. But because hearing loss has changed the nature of this communication glue, we and the people in our lives must change too. We all need to do things a little differently. Otherwise, the internal fires of frustration cause us to lash out at people and to ask for help in an unhelpful way.
A few environmental changes can minimize bad communication situations and maintain the magic and beauty of the season.
- Enjoy holiday music without the background noise. Listen by yourself or with others. Stream it through your devices. At parties, ask for the music to be turned down or off.
- If there must be 10 people at the big dinner, take a few gentle moments to ask your family and friends to be mindful of your needs. Face you when speaking, even if you’re not the only one they’re addressing. Repeat things willingly when asked – or even when not asked if they notice you becoming lost. A tip: a tablecloth, especially a thick one, can minimize the clattering if dishes. And who needs background music with all this great conversation?
- Consider more intimate social events of three to four people.
- If holiday concerts have become jarringly loud and the instruments and voices just sound messy, invite family and friends to watch favorite concerts or movies together on TV. Turn on the captions and serve with appetizers and wine.
- If the season isn’t complete without attending a faith service, pick the best seat for your hearing needs. Use the facility’s loop or FM sound system – or find another facility that does offer this access.
- Use your personal tech tools whenever possible, such as remote microphones and speech-to-text apps on your phone.
Finally, find ways to let the people you love understand that you are struggling with these seasonal, emotional flareups and that working out an accessibility plan together would be a wonderful gift.