Those Noisy Holidays!
Holidays are an important time for friends and families to get together for parties, dinners, and gift exchanges. These can be tough situations if you have trouble hearing, and can make holidays lonely. It becomes a depressing and sad time of year for people who feel left out. Isolation due to hearing loss is a real problem. What can you do to make it easier to participate in all the festivities and avoid feeling isolated?
First, if you suspect you having trouble hearing in noise, get your hearing checked well before the season is in full swing. If hearing aids are needed, please keep in mind it takes time to order hearing aids and get them ready for you. You may need to visit the office a few times after your fitting to get the hearing aids programs just right. Your brain also requires time (several days or weeks) to adapt to hearing the sounds that have been missing. This can be overwhelming at first, especially in noise, so don’t wait until the last minute!
If you have hearing aids, talk to your Audiologist about strategies or special programming that might help you hear in groups or for a particular circumstance. It is possible to have programs in your hearing aids that help reduce background noise or make music sound more natural. You may need to push a button on your hearing aid to activate the special program.
For social gatherings, talk to the host or get more information about the venue from the manager. Explain your situation and let them know what will help you the most. Sitting at a particular place, requesting that music be turned down (or off), or even moving a table or furniture to another area are fairly easy accommodations to make.
At the dinner table, many people are often talking at one time, making it hard for almost anyone to follow a conversation. For hearing aid users, this is terribly frustrating. Hearing aids are designed to emphasize speech, but they cannot know which conversations you would like to hear and which ones you don’t. One solution is to try directing the discussion to a single topic at a time and take turns commenting. Try reviewing each person’s New Year’s resolutions, highlights from the past year, new vs. hold holiday traditions, best book or movie of the year, or favorite childhood memories. Knowing the topic and creating a situation that encourages one speaker at a time will make it easier to hear and understand.
Many hearing aids have accessories available that reduce the difficulty of listening in background noise. One device is called a remote microphone or companion microphone. This special rechargeable microphone is small and a separate device from the hearing aids. It uses an internal antenna to connect the remote mic to the aids using a wireless signal. Placing the microphone near the speaker or holding it near the speaker’s mouth sends their voice directly to the hearing aids, like a radio station to a car stereo. Speech is much clearer and background noise is reduced. Some newer hearing aids are able to use a mobile app to connect to a cellular phone, giving it remote microphone capability. There is a special setting on the cell phone to activate this feature.
Walking or sitting outside, weather permitting, is another option. It is generally quieter than being inside, and good for conversations with just a few people at a time. For inside conversations, sitting on a couch or high backed upholstered chair can act as a sound baffle, especially if located away from the action in the kitchen, bar, or main area where most of the noise is.
It will take patience and understanding on everyone’s part to help those with hearing loss to fully enjoy all the holiday celebrations, but it is worth the effort to be sure all are included.
Contact the Delaware Speech and Hearing Center to find out all the hearing solutions available to help you have the best season ever! You can setup an appointment by calling 740-369-3650 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Donna Ramey, MA, CCC-A, Audiologist
Check out our last blog: Sleep and Children With Special Needs