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Navigating family gatherings with hearing loss

Contributed by | Monday, November 17th, 2014

It seems everywhere you turn, there’s a reminder that the holidays are right around the corner. Your grocer is selling pumpkin EVERYTHING, your favorite retail stores are stocking their aisles with, well, stockings, and catalogs are beginning to fill your mailbox – and inbox – with tempting offers. Although it seems we begin heralding the season earlier and earlier every year, if you have hearing loss it’s a good reminder to get prepared for the inevitable: navigating the patchwork of holiday sounds and conversations during upcoming family gatherings.

family gatherings and hearing loss
Holidays are right around the corner! Make 
sure you – and your hearing – are ready when 
family comes to visit!

Visit your hearing healthcare professional

If you suspect you have hearing loss, now is a good time to schedule an evaluation with a hearing healthcare professional. Most medical professionals recommend you have a baseline hearing test when you are 50 years of age unless you’re having difficulty hearing when you’re younger.

Like most body parts, our hearing begins to deteriorate as we grow older so there’s no shame in admitting you don’t hear as well as you used to. Hearing health care professionals call age-related hearing loss presbycusis. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately one in three individuals between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.

Because age-related hearing loss occurs gradually and most often in both ears, you may not realize you’ve lost some of your ability to hear. Fortunately, most presbycusis results from changes in the inner ear which can be treated with hearing aids. If you do have hearing loss, your hearing healthcare professional will explain the results of your hearing evaluation to you and work with you to decide the best hearing instrument for your lifestyle.

Since there’s an adjustment period with hearing aids, it’s a good idea to get started as soon as possible. You’ll want to be very comfortable with any hearing solution you choose by the time the family comes to visit. If you need the name of a trusted hearing center in your community, search the Healthy Hearing directory.

Have your hearing aids tested

If you already have hearing aids, make sure to keep your regularly scheduled maintenance appointment with your hearing healthcare professional. If you aren’t on a maintenance program, schedule an appointment to have your hearing aids thoroughly checked. You’ll want to make sure your batteries are fresh and your tubing is clear so that you’re hearing sound as clearly as possible.

If your hearing aids are programmable, make sure you know how to set them for the listening environments you’ll be experiencing during the holidays. Will you be attending a sporting event in a large stadium or just watching the game on television with a few family members? Will you be taking the family out to a noisy restaurant for the holiday meal or sitting around a family member’s table? Will you be attending a holiday parade, concert or play? Talk to your hearing healthcare professional about your holiday environment and expectations so they can help you get the best listening experience from your hearing instruments.

For tips on how to talk to children about your hearing aids, read Teaching kids about hearing aids and hearing loss on the Healthy Hearing website.

Consider Assistive Listening Devices (ALD)

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, an ALD is any device that helps a person with hearing loss communicate by amplifying the sounds they want to hear, especially when there’s a lot of background noise.

Planning to watch some football games or holiday movies with the family? Consider investing in a television amplifier. Wireless television ALDs send sound directly to hearing aid in telecoil mode or to a set of headphones for those who don’t wear hearing aids. Television ALDs allow you to hear sound at the volume you require so others in the room can listen at normal levels. The $150-$200 price tag is a low-cost solution for sharing holiday entertainment with those you love.

If you’ll be visiting with family by phone or Skype this year, consider investing in a telephone amplifier. These low cost options amplify the volume of incoming calls while blocking feedback and background noise. They may be a solution for those who don’t wear hearing aids yet need a little help hearing better on the phone.

Check with your local hearing center to see if they can recommend an ALD for your specific hearing loss. They are available for purchase at some local hearing centers, big box retail stores and online.

Make sure to check back soon and read these other holiday articles from Healthy Hearing:

Eat ear healthy!

Believe it or not, just like the rest of your body, your ears need the proper nutrition to keep them hearing their best. Fortunately, many Thanksgiving dishes are as good for your ears as they are tasty. Search the Healthy Hearing website for a list of these foods as well as some of our favorite recipes to boost hearing health. 

Develop a seating chart

Where you sit at the table when you have hearing loss can mean the difference between being part of the conversation or feeling like you aren’t a part of the fun. Our Healthy Hearing experts have put together a family-friendly seating chart that accommodates everyone at your holiday table, regardless of their ability to hear. 


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