Do you want to call it hearing abuse? Or do you just want to call it ignorance? Maybe I can be generous and call it “holiday stress”. The phenomenon seems to be more prevalent this time of year than at other times of the year. Winter is approaching and there is some anticipation of the cold weather impacting travel. Feelings of depression are more rampant this time of year, according to psychologists.
The “Winter Blues” some people call it.
There is the stress of the preparations for the holidays. Decorating the house. Going shopping for that perfect tree to adorn the family room can be fun–but, often it causes stress. Some of my friends have “eliminated” that stress by purchasing a fake tree to assemble.
There is baking, if you still bake. There is the planning for meals for the relatives. Just the planning alone takes extra time and energy. Then the actual purchasing of the groceries and finding room to store the extra food can cause stress. There is the ever present shopping for the perfect gift for each member of the family. There are the parties at work. There are special concerts at local churches. There is the “Nutcracker”… And, I don’t know about you, but there are the endless holiday movies on TV where you can binge on wonderful feelings! It’s a Wonderful Life is a holiday constant at our home.
This time of year I have patients that complain about family gatherings. The hearing aid wearer enjoys seeing everyone, but they may be missing what others are saying when there is a lot of commotion. They are hearing the person near them, but when someone calls from across the room, they are having difficulty hearing and understanding what is being said. People who wear hearing aids have the extra stress of trying to hear in very difficult situations.
This time of year I hear from patients that their family members expect them to now have 20/20 hearing. I’m often told by patients that family members “yell” at them if they miss part of a conversation.
One woman asked to me to call her daughter and explain how hearing aids work. Her daughter was expecting her to hear from another room even when she was watching television.
This time of year with winter approaching and holidays coming faster than we want them to, people may experience stress. They are busy making preparations for a family time together. When there are a number of people in the same room, there can be multiple conversations. If a person is wearing hearing aids, the multiple conversations can be confusing. It can make processing the speech difficult even for people with normal hearing, and next to impossible for those with hearing aids.
Contrary to popular belief, wearing hearing aids does not give the wearer normal hearing. Hearing aids are just like their name implies — an aid, a help, some assistance. They are not labeled new ears, or perfect hearing. Hearing aids are significantly better technologically than when I first entered college a number of years ago, but they are not replacement ears. Hearing aids help a hard of hearing person hear sounds better.
Advice for Better Holiday Hearing
Help the hard of hearing person by getting their attention before you talk to them. When a family member or friend wears hearing aids, take extra time to talk to them when they are close to you. Try to look them in the eye so you can see if they comprehend what is being said. Look at them so they can use visual cues. Do not talk to them from across the room. And, especially do not talk to them across the room if there are multiple conversations in the room!
Remember to be patient. You may be in their shoes in the future. Patience seems to be in short supply this time of year. Patience to stop and relax to enjoy the moment is becoming a lost art.
Being able to just sit and have a conversation one on one can be not only revealing but relaxing. Sometimes, we forget that taking time to sit and have a serious conversation can be fun.
Some patients complain to me that family members sometimes treat them as though they are “dumb” since they do not hear every word that is spoken. Wearing hearing aids means someone has a hearing loss; they have not lost their mental faculties. In fact, wearing hearing aids says the person wants to be part of the world. They want to hear what is being said. They have taken a step to be engaged with family and friends.
But some family members still say, “Do you have your hearing aids on?” when the person misunderstands or misinterprets what was said.
Just having your hearing aids on does not magically give you excellent hearing. Wearing the hearing aids gives you a better chance to hear and understand what is being said. However, nothing is perfect. Hearing aids are a lot better than years ago, but we must remember that hearing aids are a help, not a cure.
The best help is family and friends being patient with the person with a hearing loss who wears hearing aids. The best gift is to be able to converse with those around you. Be patient with those around you.