The holiday season is a time to be enjoyed, to connect and socialize with friends, colleagues, and family. However, for people with hearing loss, social events such as parties and family gatherings can be stressful to navigate. Get-togethers are often noisy, and it can be difficult for someone with hearing loss to hear conversations over background noise, meaning elements of conversation may be missed which can lead to feelings of isolation.
If you find the holidays frustrating due to your hearing loss, here are some tips to help you get the most out of interactions with loved ones and to get more enjoyment out of this busy time of year.
Be Your Own Advocate
If the volume of the music or TV is overpowering or if it is affecting your ability to follow group conversation, explain to others that you will hear better if the volume level is lowered. If the gathering is not in your home, politely ask the host to lower the volume.
Take Some Quiet Time
It can be tiring trying to follow group conversation over background noise, and to read lips for extended periods. If you find yourself experiencing listening fatigue, take some time out from the situation. Find a quiet area or room, where you can take a break or enjoy a quiet conversation with a friend. Alternatively, take a short walk outside. Even a few minutes away from noise can help you re-energize before returning to the party.
Explain to Other’s How They Can Help
It is not always easy to talk about your hearing loss and needs with others, but it is essential for you to advocate for yourself to ensure you get the most out of social experiences. Explain to family and friends about how they can help to aid communication. They will probably want to help but may not know how to do so. Try to focus on a few simple points. Here are some suggestions of things to highlight:
Ask people to get your attention before speaking to you, either by saying your name or tapping you on the shoulder.
Explain that you may be unlikely to catch quickly spoken comments in passing, or if someone’s back is turned. Request that people face you when speaking to you, making sure their lips are visible to help aid lipreading and understanding.
Overlapping voices can make it difficult to focus on one particular voice over background noise. Ask that people try to take turns in speaking and that they speak clearly.
Choose a Hearing Buddy
It can be helpful to ask someone you are comfortable with and who has a good grasp of your hearing capacity to sit next to you, to help fill in gaps in conversation. A hearing buddy can also alert you when someone addresses you or if something of particular interest is being discussed.
Assess the Seating Arrangements
Be strategic about where you sit. Perhaps you have the best chance of hearing conversation if you are sitting at the end of a table, or maybe you prefer to sit where you have a clear view of people’s lips for lipreading. If you have an optimal seating position, make sure you sit there—people will be happy to swap seats if they understand the reason. If the party venue is a restaurant, it can be a good idea to mention your needs at the time of booking and request a corner table where there is less background noise.
Use Visual Cues
Using simple visual cues such as moving closer to the speaker or cupping your ear with your hand, can act as gentle but effective reminders to others about your hearing loss.
Most importantly, it is important to be kind to yourself. Even though you may not hear everything that people around you are saying, you can still take part in conversations when you feel comfortable to. Enjoy the celebrations and appreciate the time spent with loved ones. Holiday gatherings can be a challenge for people with hearing loss, but by employing a few simple measures they can still be enjoyable experiences.
Carly Sygrove is a hearing loss blogger who lives in Madrid. She loves: spending time with her sister, walking in the countryside, getting lost in Madrid with her boyfriend, travelling, going out for breakfast, her family and friends, taking photos, listening to music, storytelling podcasts, baking, running, drinking wine, and eating spicy food.
In 2016, she experienced a profound sudden sensorineural hearing loss in her left ear. She started a blog as a way of sharing her experiences of living with single-sided deafness, and the challenges posed by hearing loss on her everyday life.