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Guide to navigating the holidays with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss, whether you use assistive listening devices and hearing aids or not, you know how difficult it can be to hear well in stressful, noisy or distracting situations. The holidays are filled with fun and special moments, but they can prove a bit difficult for people with hearing loss. Here are some tips to navigate holiday situations with hearing loss:

Hearing aid tune up

Before Thanksgiving, the official start of the holiday season, make sure to go to your audiologist for a tune up and cleaning of your hearing aids so your devices will be in perfect working order. Make sure to have extra tubes, filters, batteries, a drying device and cleaning equipment for your hearing aids on hand, especially if you're traveling during the holidays. Also, many audiologists take a few weeks off of work during the holidays, or have limited hours, so you want to have everything you need even before Thanksgiving rolls around.

Holiday travel

Plan ahead if you have hearing lossIf you plan to fly during the holidays, there are several things you can do to feel comfortable and prepared during the busy holiday airport season, including:

  • Sign up for text messages. Many airports and train stations - places that can get pretty loud - have systems in place where you receive a text message if your flight has changed. This way, you won't miss important announcements.
  • If you wear hearing aids, keep them in at security checkpoints. According to the TSA, it is safe and fine to keep hearing aids or cochlear implant devices in your ears during a security screening. However, if you don't feel comfortable walking through a metal detector or imaging machine, you can opt for a thorough pat down.
  • At your gate, seat yourself close to the gate so you can better hear announcements. If you're comfortable with it, ask someone near you to keep you posted about when it's time for your group to board or if there has been a change in flight status.
  • Some airports are looped, so if you have a hearing aid with a telecoil, check to see if this is an option.
  • Make sure to bring any other devices you use, like a vibrating alarm clock or personal amplifiers. Consider also bringing a simple hearing aid repair kit in case you have an issue and all nearby audiologists are closed on the holiday.

Family gatherings

If you have a very large family or several small children in the family, it's likely that your holidays can get pretty noisy. Of course you'll miss a few things here and there, but here are some tips to help you navigate and make the most of your family gatherings:

  • Spend time with your family members one-on-one. If the house or gathering place is very noisy with football games on TV, laughter and back-and-forth banter, find a quiet place to talk. You can help in the kitchen or sit on the back porch - go wherever the distracting noises aren't.
  • At the dinner table, make sure to sit next to someone who will fill you in if you miss a punch line. Don't sit facing the window because the glare can be distracting and interfere with lipreading. It's a good idea to sit by someone you're used to lip reading. Make sure the TV is turned off to minimize background noise, and let the host know what you need in advance.
  • What are the holidays without an autumn craft brew or eggnog? Some people with hearing loss find that they have no trouble lip reading after having a drink - in fact, for some, it helps them relax so they can lip read more easily. For others, having an alcoholic beverage makes it more difficult to pay attention and focus on hearing.
  • Make sure to take a 5-minute hearing break. Listening can be hard work for people with hearing loss!

Dining out

Many people dine out during the holidays, and restaurants can be especially busy and loud at this time of year. Here are some tips for surviving and thriving while eating out:

  • Try to get a spot with your back against a wall. This way, there will be no background noise coming from behind.
  • Choose a restaurant - or ask the host to choose one - that is well-lit. If you depend on lip reading, it can be nearly impossible in a very dim environment.
  • Bring an assistive listening device - such as a personal sound amplifier - with you to dinner. These can be used in concert with hearing aids and can help in particularly noisy environments. Choose a restaurant that has round tables so you can see most of the other guests more easily, which will better facilitate lip reading.

Holiday shopping

Shopping in a mall or grocery store can be a bit challenging for people with hearing loss at all times of the year, but they are especially difficult environments during the holiday shopping rush. Here are some tips to navigate the shopping scene:

  • Though you can get some good deals on Black Friday, avoid this day if you can help it. Many sites offer Black Friday deals online, so consider doing your shopping from home.
  • If you love shopping and picking out gifts in person and don't want to order presents online, consider shopping in smaller local businesses, rather than big box retailers or departments stores, which are generally busier.
  • If you simply must go to the mall, you can navigate your interactions with the clerk upon check out by letting her or him know you have hearing loss. Also, look at the price on the digital sign to see how much your purchase costs, ask the clerk to write things down for you and ask him or her closed questions. Check to see if the stores you are visiting have a hearing loop - these are becoming more common.

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