Don’t Let Hearing Loss Increase Holiday Stress

Why might hearing loss support groups feature mental health speakers around the end-of-the-year Holiday Season? It is expected that such specialists will help strengthen the resolve and self-confidence of their members so that they can “survive” the stress of the Holidays.

Hearing loss increases Holiday stress because it is a tiring, chronic communication issue. The biggest challenge is the understanding of speech in background noise. And that’s a problem because the “Holiday Season” is the peak socializing and communicating time of the year. People gather to celebrate major religious and cultural events. Although this is usually perceived as fun and exciting, those with hearing loss and/or tinnitus might have a different opinion.

Prepare for events!

Too many overly loud activities combined with the struggle to follow conversations in noise strain the ears and the brain. Listening fatigue sets in and people become quickly overwhelmed. Even high-tech hearing aids are of limited use. The most wonderful time of the year turns into a time of mounting anxiety and stress. Coping skills are urgently needed!  

Some year-round tips for being included rather than excluded.

  1. Practice “active listening” techniques in order to tune into conversations.
  2. Hearing loss is tiring. Rest up before heading out to parties or events.
  3. Use the technology that you already have. Look into smartphone apps for your phone system. Sound Meter apps give a heads-up how loud a venue is while apps that convert speech-to-text help ease one-on-one conversations.
  4. When going to plays or places of worship, make sure ahead of time that the venue is accessible for those with hearing loss. Do they have FM, IR, a hearing loop? I usually take some of my own devices, just in case.
  5. Get out of the huddle! To minimize or eliminate the effects of background noise, ask a conversation partner to move to a quieter area. Again, Active Listening and speech-to-text smartphone apps help.
  6. How about inviting a favorite visitor, such as a friend or grandchild to your place for a one-on-one cup of coffee or lunch? 
  7. Louder is not better. If possible, ask the house host to turn the music down and explain the reason for the request. Many people are not aware that loud sound often acts as a conversation killer, the exact opposite of what they try to achieve for the Holidays.   
  8. Chime in with your concerns about noise when choices are made regarding restaurants. Be ready to suggest an alternative location. Go early and choose a table that puts you in the most favorable place for following a conversation – away from the bar or kitchen, maybe in a corner where nobody sits behind you. Call ahead and reserve a “quieter” table.
  9. Avoid nasty noise surprises. I always carry hearing protection as a first line of defense against excessive sound levels. The goal is to minimize tinnitus and to protect my residual hearing.

While it is well-known that hearing loss increases Holiday stress in many ways, this is also a time of inclusion for all.  And so, get prepared and don’t get caught up in the Holiday communication crunch.  A bit of forethought increases the odds dramatically that a good and jolly time will be had by all!