The holidays are a great time of year, filled with family dinners and celebrations, gatherings with friends, holiday parties, and lots of socializing. I love getting dressed up, enjoying the decorations and participating in the general feeling of happiness that comes along with the season. But because of my hearing loss, all the socializing and holiday hubbub can be exhausting and overwhelming. I want to be a part of the fun, but the concentration required to hear can be taxing, particularly at holiday parties held in noisy restaurants or similar venues.
But, let's NOT let that put a damper on the holiday season! I hope these tips will help you approach the holiday season with more joy and less fear.
1. Position yourself in a good spot: At a seated meal, sit near the middle of the table to have a better shot at hearing more conversation. At a cocktail party, find a quieter area of the room away from the music and high traffic areas like the buffet or bar area and spend time there. Try to have a wall behind you to block the background noise.
2. Avoid background noise when possible: When I host, I always keep background music to a minimum. Other hosts may like to play music louder. Ask your host to lower the volume or to adjust the volume in different parts of the room or venue. I always ask restaurants to turn down the volume of the music too!
3. Converse with those next to you: At a seated dinner, don't try to participate in conversations across large distances. If you would like to talk with someone, move closer to him, or ask that you continue the conversation when you have a chance to be closer together. If it is a party with multiple rooms, you can ask someone to join you in a quieter spot.
4. Wear your hearing aids: Some of us hate to wear our hearing aids, but they really can help. Experiment with different settings to find what is optimal. Practice at home if you don't want to spend time experimenting at the event. It takes time to get used to new settings, but it is worth it.
5. Try other technologies: There are many new technologies now available that can help you hear in a group setting including personal FM systems or other one to one communication devices. Some of my friends swear by these.
6. Have reasonable expectations: You probably won't hear everything that everyone says, but that is ok. Enjoy talking to the people near you, then seek out others to talk with during other parts of the party.
7. Take a break: Don't be shy about taking a break from the action for a few minutes to give your ears and brain a rest. Head to the restroom, or find a quiet spot in another room. Or go stand outside for a few minutes. It will clear your head and build energy for another round of socializing.
8. Don't fake it: It is very tempting to nod along and pretend that you hear what others are saying or laugh just because others are laughing. But it can be dangerous, particularly if someone is asking you a question. Be brave and be honest with others if you are having trouble hearing. It will make the interactions more memorable for both of you.
9. Give visual clues to indicate you are having trouble hearing: If you are having trouble hearing, cup your ear with your hand to indicate to the speaker to speak louder without interrupting the flow of the conversation. I have seen this in action and it is very effective.
10. Bring your sense of humor: It can be hard to keep it all in perspective during the holidays when you feel like you are missing out on the fun, but try to laugh a little and be grateful for the wonderful friends and family around you. You may not hear every word they say, but you can partake in all of the good feelings nonetheless. Try to enjoy the moment.
Readers, what tips do you have for enjoying the holidays when you have a hearing loss?
A version of this post first appeared on Living With Hearing Loss.