Hear for the Holidays: Help loved ones with hearing loss stay engaged

By Tiffany Pfleger, AuD.
Hearing loss affects all age groups, but the risk goes up significantly as we get older. For some, this decline can be so gradual that it doesn’t seem obvious until it’s quite advanced, which tends to make it harder to urge a loved one to seek treatment.
While a hearing impairment is always a challenge, the holidays can churn up even more stress and emotion. It’s a busy time, and even though activities are centered around celebration, someone with hearing loss often feels like they aren’t really a part of it all.
The best course of action for someone with hearing loss is, of course, to address the problem. But for most people, it’s not that simple – it can take time to gently and effectively urge someone to have a hearing evaluation and explore possible remedies. So while you may be going through this process with a loved one, you still want to make sure the hustle and bustle of the holidays doesn’t get in the way of a wonderful, memorable experience for them.
What You Can Do
Make an effort to engage one-on-one
People with hearing loss tend to withdraw from conversations because it’s just too frustrating to feel left out of them – and they don’t want to be a burden by asking that everything be constantly repeated. By involving a loved one with hearing loss directly, you can do so much to keep them engaged.
Make an effort to ask them questions
Encourage them to tell stories. At meal time, ask them where they would like to sit – and take your seat next to them.
Minimize background noise
Even for those with perfect hearing, it can be difficult to follow a conversation when there are lots of sounds in the background. You can help someone with hearing loss stay connected by turning down or eliminating ambient noise, such as the television or music.
Be mindful of the lighting
Although candlelit dinners are cozy and festive, you may be creating an unintentional obstacle for your hard of hearing guest. Being able to read lips or see facial expressions can help fill in the blanks for someone who can’t hear well, so a well-lit dinner table is best.
Louder isn’t necessarily better
Although someone with hearing loss may frequently ask others to repeat themselves, it might just be a particular word or sound they can’t quite pick up. Try saying it again in a slightly different way, making sure to enunciate and face the person to whom you are speaking.
It Takes A Village
When it comes to making the holidays a little brighter for a loved one with hearing loss, one person shouldn’t be expected to assume total responsibility. Gather your immediate family and talk to them about all the ways in which they can help. Feeling relevant is perhaps one of the greatest challenges we face as we get older, and if our hearing is compromised, that connection becomes even more critical to our health and wellbeing.
Tiffany Pfleger, Au.D., and her business partner, Leanne O’Neil Fletcher, Au.D., operate Advanced Audiology Associates Inc. with offices in Dennis and Mashpee. Visit hearingonthecape.com to contact either doctor or for more information.