If your holiday gift list includes someone with hearing loss, don’t overlook the opportunity for a spectacular, one-of-a-kind present.
We – people who are hard of hearing (HoH), CI users and deaf – adore the standard presents such as gloves, clothes, bling, and trips, and are not suggesting you stop wrapping them up for us. But if you’re putting some thought into your gifts this year, take a moment to reflect on who we are: people focused on communication and its challenges, users of cochlear implants and hearing aids, neck loops and facial expressions.
We are different, we are special. So, here are some unique suggestions that could be the stunning highlight of your HoH’s holiday (or any other gift-giving occasion).
Some of these ideas cost money, some don’t. Some take just a few seconds to prepare, others require a bit of time and effort.
1. Words, Words, Words! This is one of the best gifts a person with hearing loss can receive. Words – the understandingof personal words. Words in our ear through an amplified phone, the well-articulated words as we watch your face at a noisy party, the printed words in text messages or emails. We love words; they are our connection to people. (Hint: Amplified phones and cell phones widely available. Captioned telephones not yet available in Canada.)
2. The Gift of Captioning: Television, movies, and videos are not accessible to many of us without the inclusion of captioning. How about drawing up a gift certificate that says, “Effective immediately, the closed captioning will never be turned off in this house. Whenever the TV is on, so is the captioning. Because when you can’t enjoy the program, neither can we.” Watch the recipient’s face as the message is read. He or she may look up in amazement, perhaps a single tear will roll down the cheek, as you reassure your mom, dad, child, friend, or partner that you will never again turn off the captioning when she or he leaves the room.
3. Captioned Movie Passes: If you’re lucky enough to live near a movie theatre that offers the new captioning technology, buy some deluxe passes for two that include popcorn and drinks. (You’ll have to hold your HoH’s drink, however, as they will need to fit the captioning viewer into their drink holder.)
Does your partner use some sign language when communicating with others who have hearing loss – but you don’t sign at all? Here are a couple of wonderful gifts that will not only earn you major brownie points, but may offer some unexpected payoffs.
4. Rudolf the Signing Reindeer: Even if you only know how to sign “thank you” or “excuse-me-I-have-to-go-to-the-washroom”, you can learn to sign your beloved’s favorite holiday song in just a few minutes. YouTube has some very good, fun “how-to” clips. When you’re ready, have a friend or family member sing the carol while you sign it. It’s a good idea to practice, though. I was once halfway through signing Joy to the World to a room full of people, before I realized my friend was bellowing Hark the Herald Angels Sing.
5. Family Sign-Along: If you had fun signing Rudolph with your family, why not go one step further and register everyone for a short group course, Sign Language 101. Trust me on this one, you will have a lot of fun and your family will experience a new level of understanding and communication (signing is easier on the ears than yelling).
6. Support of Advocacy: A donation to the Hearing Loss Advocacy Association of your choice will help consumer groups in their innovative and relentless work on behalf of people with hearing loss. Support them.
7. Technology: There’s always something that a HoH doesn’t have: a hearing-aid compatible portable phone, the latest neck loop, a personal FM system, a high-def TV (easier speechreading) with surround sound, books on living successfully with a cochlear implant, and anything that includes captioned speech.
8. Commitment: We appreciate that it’s easy to forget to face us, speak up, not mumble and don’t call from another room. But it’s still frustrating. A renewed commitment to better communication is the single best gift that we can receive from those we love.
From the Better Hearing Consumer, best wishes for a happy, joyous season of peace and good communication.