People who have a hard time hearing can feel left out of the holiday cheer.
“With the older population, they often hate the holidays,” says Susie Ternes, a Via Christi audiologist. “A joyful occasion can become a dreaded event, especially with family gatherings.”
But, Ternes says, there are some simple steps that both families and those with hearing loss can take to make sure the conversation flows smoothly during the holidays.
- Do what you can to eliminate background noise. Turn off TVs and music, and try to have only one person talking at the dinner table at a time.“Even people with moderate hearing loss can do fine with a one-on-one conversation,” Ternes says. “But when you throw in even a little background noise, communication breakdowns can happen left and right.”
- Encourage family members to look directly at someone who has hearing loss when speaking to them. Likewise, encourage the person with hearing loss to look directly at the person speaking to him or her. Hearing aids have directional microphones, so this will help the person hear while diminishing background noise. It also helps with visual cues such as lip reading.
- If background noise is still a problem, move away from it.“If you want grandma to feel included, go over and have a conversation with grandma and move away from the noise, or go to another room,” Ternes says. “It makes a world of difference in terms of that person’s sense of connectedness.”
- Talk about these steps with family members, especially children, to make them aware of what they can do to help.
The holidays also can be a good time to let family members know you think they may have an issue with their hearing, Ternes says. If you have concerns about a family member’s hearing aids working properly, encourage him or her to schedule an appointment with the clinician who fitted them for hearing aids to have them tested.
Or, if it’s someone who doesn’t have hearing aids, encourage him or her to either schedule an appointment with their primary care provider to discuss options, or contact an audiologist directly. Via Christi’s team of audiologists can be reached at 316-634-3518.
“You might just say, ‘Have you ever asked your doctor if you should have your hearing tested?’” Ternes says. “Or, ‘Grandma, I’m having trouble talking to you. You might get your hearing tested.’ And if they bring it up, it’s a good time to address the issue.”