For people with hearing loss, the holiday season can be incredibly stressful.
Holiday parties and family gatherings can cause frustration and discomfort as you struggle to catch the joke and follow the conversation, especially when background noise interferes with your hearing aid. Even virtual family get-togethers can be difficult, due to mixed sound quality and lack of body-language signals to help communication.
1. Do some advance work
Most hosts are happy to oblige if you talk to them ahead of time about your needs, says Shari Eberts, a hearing health advocate and founder of the blog Living With Hearing Loss. Could you be seated at a specific spot at the table? Could the kids’ table be in a separate room? Would your host mind turning down the holiday tunes or, preferably, turning them off at some point? If you’re meeting a group at a restaurant, call in advance to see if the manager can lower the volume of the background music and put your party in a quiet corner, ideally at a booth or round table.
2. Reserve a strategic spot at the table
For a sit-down dinner, arrive early to scope out the best seat — then claim it with a coat or bag. Look for a spot in the middle of the table (so you can see everyone) and away from the kitchen, says Katherine Bouton, author of Shouting Won’t Help a memoir about coping with adult-onset hearing loss. Putting your back to the wall can help filter out background noise.
3. Get a boost from technology
Even if you have a hearing aid, an assistive listening device can be extremely helpful in a loud environment, Bouton says. These devices come with earbuds or a headset and a portable microphone — just place the mic near whomever you want to hear. Another option is to convert your smartphone into an amplifier by using headphones and a hearing amplifier app like Petralex or Hear Boost, both of which are available for iOS and Android devices.
4. Make a beeline for the couch
During a gathering avoid the kitchen, food area and bar, which tend to be crowded and loud. Instead, invite someone to sit on a sofa with you to chat. “Not only will the couch provide a little acoustic baffle,” Bouton says, “but the noise will be above you and less intrusive.”