How to survive the holiday season as a hearing aid wearer
The holidays are a big part of the year, and everyone loves a chance to enjoy fresh, delicious food & friendly company. If you're not sure how to approach socializing, here are some tips so you can have a great time, too
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If you’re traveling for the holidays, or just want to make sure you’re adequately prepared for guests, it’s important to ensure that all of your necessities are accounted for. This includes making sure your hearing aids and other technology are working correctly. A checklist can come in handy in situations like this, so you don’t end up unprepared and on-the-spot. Even one forgotten item, like a charger or batteries, can impact your entire trip. So, to make sure you’re safe instead of sorry, here are some things to check for before going on your holiday vacation:
- Hearing aids: Aside from actually taking the physical devices, it’s important to make sure that they’re ready to use and up-to-date. If you’ve meant to get a new pair of hearing aids, the holidays are the perfect time to get them. Family and friends might be willing to chip in as a gift, and you can start off your vacation on the right foot.
- Chargers: If your hearing aids use rechargeable batteries, make sure all of your equipment is safely packed. If you’re traveling by plane, make sure all hearing aid accessories and chargers are stored in your carry-on. We provide more travel tips in our other article on “Traveling with hearing loss”, and there’s no harm in checking your list twice.
- Accessories: If your hearing aids have Bluetooth capability, you might use your phone or a microphone alongside them. Make sure these devices are packed and ready as well! You never know when and where you might need your hearing accessories, so it’s best to have them on hand. If you’re missing any accessories for your hearing aid – microphones, dehumidifiers, etc. – consider putting them on your wishlist! People love giving useful, meaningful gifts.
Tips and tricks for holiday events
Once you’re at the party or reunion, it can be easy to become discouraged by the amount of noise and conversation going on. If you have a large family or are attending a party with coworkers and friends, the noise levels can get pretty loud. Here are some tips on how to handle holiday events, while still managing to enjoy yourself.
- Turn down the music. Music can become overpowering, especially when it’s combined with the voices of multiple people. While the cocktail party effect allows some people to drown out the noise, you might not be able to. Don’t assume the hosts or guests mean any harm by the music — they might not even realize that it’s bothering you! Bring it up politely, and they should be happy to turn it down a notch.
- Find a quiet area. If your home or the host’s home has a quiet sitting area, back porch, or balcony, you can find respite in these places when things get loud. If you need a minute to yourself, just let someone know and take a breather. You can also take someone with you and have a quieter conversation elsewhere.
- Let the host know. If you’re attending someone else’s party or church event, make sure to tell the host about your hearing loss. Offer tips on how to make the gathering more HoH-friendly and let them know of any personal preferences you have. If you’re still hesitant to say anything, remember that it’s no different from notifying the host about food allergies. Events are supposed to be fun for everyone, no matter what health requirements they have.
- Embrace your hearing loss. Don’t be embarrassed or shy about telling people about your hearing loss. You have the right to a good time, and friends and family will understand that. Let people know that you are hard of hearing and ask politely that they make accommodations for you. If they’re worth being around, they’ll happily do their best.
- If children are being noisy, ask that they take it outside or into another room. No-one likes it when children are being loud and rowdy in the house. Luckily, most children are happy to take their games outside when you ask kindly. If you’re worried about treading on their parents’ toes, try bringing it up with them first.
Improving holiday meals
Holiday meals are a time for lively interaction, but it can also get out of control. People talking over one another, loud plates and forks, and multiple conversations can quickly ruin the experience for someone with hearing loss. A few small changes can alleviate these problems. Several of these tips can also benefit others at the dinner table, so there’s no harm in suggesting them!
- Ask if a circular seating arrangement is available. Circular tables create a better listening environment than long rows of seating. It's also more inclusive and friendly for everyone involved
- Grab a dinner buddy. A friend, spouse or family member that can help you catch conversations you missed and keep you from feeling isolated. If you have a type of hearing loss that affects higher pitches, consider a buddy with a lower voice
- Politely request that people take turns speaking. Everyone talking at once is a nightmare for anyone with hearing loss, communication disorders, or general anxiety. It's less frustrating for everyone if the conversation is calm and orderly
- Put your best position forward. If you hear better through one ear, or just prefer to sit on one side of the table, make sure to bring it up with the host. They should be happy to put you and your dinner companion somewhere comfortable.
- Suggest disposable dinnerware. The clanking and clattering of dinnerware can be unpleasant and loud, even for people without hearing loss. Suggest disposable dinnerware for a quieter dinner and easier cleanup.
How hearing aids can help
Most of these tips can apply to all people with hearing loss, regardless of whether or not they use hearing aids. However, if you are hesitant to begin using hearing aids, the holidays might be a great time to try them. You can enjoy better hearing with clearer speech comprehension in noisy situations, get a feel for what the hearing aids are like, and begin adjusting them immediately.
Those who already own and use hearing aids might be considering a new pair. With the holidays approaching, it’s a good time to get your hearing tested and think about hearing aids as a present to yourself. In cases like these, earlier is better. Then, you can attend your family reunions, brunches, and holiday parties with a better range of hearing.
Many people who use hearing aids say that they enjoy conversations more and are able to communicate more effectively when using them. Holidays and reunions are the time to catch up with loved ones, share stories, and talk about your upcoming plans. Hearing aids can help you hear what’s going on around you, so you can take part in the jokes and tell your own stories without hesitation.
If you’re interested in more tips, tricks, and information about hearing aids, aural health, and other HoH topics, subscribe to the Signia newsletter and receive updates on content that might interest you.