How do we, the people with hearing loss, overcome the noisy barriers and reclaim the joy of the season? When the sounds we love become noise and when the people become too many, how can we stay included?
If you have hearing loss or tinnitus, I’m sure you’ve read more than one article on how to survive the noisy, busy holidays—especially when you’re spending it with people who forget that you have hearing loss and/or tinnitus.
I always need reminders on how to not give in to the bah-humbug of challenging holiday dinners and social events. We need to know what can help and then mix in some patience and planning. Here are some great, basic holiday communication tips from a couple of writers with years of experience with highly emotional, holiday-time barriers.
In her recent article called Holidays and Hearing Loss: Making It Work, Shari Eberts, hearing health advocate extraordinaire, offered a superb summary of what we all need to do for better seasonal communication. Make social events work for you by asking for accommodations in advance; self-advocate and stand up for what you need; use your technology (it’s magic!); and finally, practice self-care to help reduce both mental and physical stress.
Katherine Bouton, writer of Shouting Won’t Help: Why I and 50 Million Americans Can’t Hear You, offered complementary advice in her article Holiday TLC. T stands for technology—use all the assistive devices you’ve got, including the miracle of your smartphone to help you tune into conversations (think “speech-to-text” and “live listen”). L means location, creating the best possible listening environment. Finally, C represents ‘care’: taking care of yourself and your needs and listening with care to others.
Many hearing aid manufacturers and audiology sites also offer good tips for using your hearing aids and their add-on streaming devices to their full potential.
A tip I’ve had to embrace: don’t dwell on Christmases Past. Our holiday celebrations often don’t match up to our childhood Christmas memories. We may also grieve for the time when we could hear better than we do now. But life changes. We need to rise to the joy of this year—what can we do to make this year more accessible?
A few other hearing holiday tips:
- This season, you’re the expert: take ownership of your hearing loss. You’re the only one who’s can drive communication accessibility in your own life.
- Lights up, noise down! These are the two must-haves. Make conversation with people the focal point of any event, not the background music or candle-lit ambiance (which makes it hard to read lips).
- Take hearing breaks: if the party is just too noisy and exhausting, step outside. Go to quieter room. Or enjoy it for as long as you can and then leave early.
- Stand up—or sit down—for yourself. At the dinner table, ask your friends and family (you may have to repeat this a couple of times) to be mindful of your challenges. You simply can’t contribute to multi-voice conversations zinging around the table. One at time, maybe?
- Speaking of the dinner table, get a saw. Chop off the corners and turn that rectangular table into a circle or at least an oblong surface that gives you a fighting chance to read everybody’s lips.
- Understand that ‘hearing people’ are not deliberately trying to exclude you. They get caught up in the easy flow of conversation that comes with good hearing. Gentle reminders work better than anger, help them out by making some simple shifts in the listening situation. Move seats. Turn down the noise. Move somewhere quieter. Let them you know you want to engage because it’s season—and you love them.
This year, be a hearing holiday star! What are your holiday-survival tips?