As the 2016 holiday season rapidly approaches, you may find yourself finalizing menus, buying groceries, and making lists for the gathering of friends and family, but you may be missing something important. Over 50 million Americans have hearing loss, and only one in five of those manage it with some type of hearing device. Over a third of people over 65, and over 50% of those over age 75, have significant hearing loss, which means this disability directly affects almost every family this holiday season. Have you stopped to consider the people in your life with hearing loss?

What is for most people a joyful family gathering and meal, can be anxiety-provoking for those with hearing impairment. People with hearing impairments suffer from a silent hurt likely causing embarrassment and withdrawal from people during a time when most are looking forward to warm conversations. Most types of hearing loss make it difficult to hear consonant sounds like “t” or “b,” making it very difficult for people to make out words their loved ones say. Background noise like music, television or even other conversations, further aggravates this issue, and sometimes rather than trying to keep up with the banter, those with hearing loss simply retreat to be alone. While hearing aids and other devices, such as cochlear implants, help; they still have some limitations with competing background sounds.

As a host or hostess there are a few simple things you can do to make your event more enjoyable for the hearing impaired:

  • Turn down the volume to the music or TV. In fact, it is best to eliminate background noise during the meal or conversation.
  • Be attentive. If someone has isolated themselves, try to bring them back into the conversation using good communication. Get the person’s attention before you speak; face them so they can see your lips; speak slower and clearly, not louder.
  • To engage everyone and cut down on competing conversation, consider having table conversation questions where one person answers at a time.
  • During the meal, seat them next to someone who will patiently be their advocate. Be aware of table decorations can obstruct their sight line during conversation.
  • Be aware of teens who appear unfriendly or withdrawn. This may be a sign of hearing loss.
  • Prepare a separate quieter area to which one can retreat for a more comfortable one-on-one conversation.

If you are the person with hearing loss, do not be shy about practicing self-advocacy.  Request a seat at the table that accommodates your “better side.”  Ask the host beforehand to help accommodate your listening needs.  Let them be aware you may need special instructions repeated.

If you have a friend or family member with untreated hearing loss, the best gift you can offer is understanding and encouragement to address it.  Let the person know that you value their ability to communicate and to be a part of your world; that their withdrawal and isolation affects you also.  It is a joy to see everyone being part of the conversation, and hearing the holidays.

Hough Ear Institute has made exciting discoveries toward a cure for certain types of hearing loss.  Until that day arrives, we encourage management of any level of loss whether it be through ear protection, hearing aids, or a cochlear implant. Our clinic, Hough Ear Hearing & Speech Center (HEHSC) and their highly educated and experienced professionals are available for counseling and implementation of the best solution based on your hearing examination.

To make an appointment, call us at 405-947-6030 to visit us at Hough Ear Hearing and Speech Center, where “Miracles Happen.”