Dear Family: A Holiday Hearing Letter

Dear Family,

Every year, before Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukkah and all the other traditions observed in our fabulous extended family, I give you the same pep talk.

You know the pep talk I mean – the one where I urge you to put some pep into how you talk with me so that I can follow conversations.

Every year, I print out articles that explain how people with hearing loss and their families can improve communications during holiday dinners, concerts, worship services, school pageants, and parties of all sizes.

And every year, I still find myself sidelined in conversations, struggling to catch up. What did Uncle Ben say? What are we talking about now? Who died? Oh, no one? Gosh, that’s good. What did Grandpa just say?

The rest of the year, you’re all great – OK, I’m gonna change that to good – communicators. But good intentions – to speak better, to articulate clearly, to face me, lights up and noise down, and even, if all the saints are smiling, to speak one at a time – often get lost in the excitement of the event. When you are reminded, you immediately repeat yourself or do whatever I need, but in the midst of such bubbling spirits, it’s still a struggle to keep reminding you all. I’ve even suggested taking a saw to the rectangular dining room table and making it a circular one to help with speech reading. The idea was considered too drastic, so we continued with the same long table where I can’t hear, let alone see, someone at the end on my side.

So, this year, I thought we all – but mostly me – could try something different.

If I’m having trouble keeping up with the dinner conversation, I will simply engage with whoever I’m sitting next to or across from. If I have something important to say but can’t catch a break in the chatter, I will stand up and get your attention with a hand wave. Then I will own the table until I stop talking and sit down.

If the room noise sets my devices humming and sends my tinnitus and hyperacusis into overdrive, filling my head with unbearable sound, I will invite someone to go outside with me for a walk or to look at the stars. Or I’ll go on my own.

If we can’t sit together at church or a Christmas concert, I’ll find myself a single seat where I can hear and see better. Afterwards, we can talk about how beautiful the music and how adorable the kids looked as they sang.

If the TV at the house where we’re watching old holiday movies is not accessible, and nobody can figure out how to get captions on Grandpa’s ancient TV, I’ll take along my TV streamer. I will actually enjoy the movie better than the rest of you, because I won’t suffer through as much background noise.

And maybe this year, in addition to all the things I’ve suggested, maybe this year will be the one where at least some people finally really get what I need. To the point that they even change the way they communicate. Just a bit. Just enough to include, rather than exclude me.

What a gift that would be!

But even without hearing access or collaborative communication, in spite of the noise and frustration, I am still going to enjoy the season.

Because I love it…as much as I love you all.

All My Love,



About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.


  1. This was good. don’t know what a streaming device is that can be taken to watch tv. I looked it up and found a small thing that plugs into some outlet on tv. No photos so don’t know what the outlet looks like. really, this tech is great but have no idea how to use it. what I found looks confusing to use, dependent on factors such as the origin of the shows, eg. Amazon or TV, need for computer to sue with tv, etc. My hosts have an acoustic nightmare house, all hard surfaces, very modern. Can’t tell where sounds are coming from, who is talking, etc. TV is center stage in living room and nobody knows how to get the captions to work. I love my young friends but go late and leave early.

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