Ongoing health issues often become more pronounced and obvious when families get together. Hearing loss can make the holiday season especially trying, as those with hearing impairment may find loud group conversations both difficult and isolating. It can, however, be a good time to realise the full extent of hearing loss. You may notice hearing difficulties in yourself, or become aware of a loved one struggling to hear conversations properly.
Here are some suggestions to make holiday meals and celebrations more comfortable and enjoyable for those with hearing loss:
- speak clearly and not too fast
- never shout
- if asked to repeat something, do so patiently without raising your voice
- if your repetition is still not understood, try rewording your sentence. Some words are easier to understand than others.
- conversation is much easier without distracting background noise from loud music, the radio or television. Be sure to turn these devices off when it’s time to talk.
- choose a quiet restaurant when dining out.
Holiday sounds, such as loud family gatherings, can give people an opportunity to realise they are having trouble hearing. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is painless and the process is so gradual that people often don’t realise they have hearing loss until it affects their ability to carry on a conversation. People with NIHL have trouble hearing soft, high-pitched noises, which means that people can hear what is being said without fully understanding.
While most hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids, only a small percentage of those who need them have taken steps to be fitted for one or a pair. Dr Beyer, senior vice president of HearUSA, says, “Today’s digital hearing aids are smaller, smarter and more comfortable than ever before. I can think of no greater gift during the holiday season than encouraging a loved one or a friend with untreated hearing loss to consider the impact they could have on their lives.”
Talking about hearing loss with a loved one can be a touchy subject, so be sure to bring it up when you have some privacy during a quiet moment. Talking about hearing aids in front of the whole family could put your loved one in an awkward position, making them less receptive to the idea, so be mindful of your timing when having the conversation.