Seven tips to better communication this holiday season
The holidays have a delightful way of taking us away from our normal routines. Family gatherings suddenly contain relatives we haven’t seen for a while, shopping in crowded malls becomes an art form and group dinners take place in trendy restaurants instead of at the dinner table.
If you have hearing loss, these activities can be more stressful than delightful if you don’t have a game plan. For that reason, we’re providing the following tips designed to help you improve communication with your friends and family this holiday season.
1. Get your hearing aids cleaned and adjusted. If you see a hearing healthcare professional regularly, chances are good you’re already maintaining your hearing aids. Keeping your hearing instruments clean goes a long way to helping you hear your best, as does letting your hearing healthcare professional know what type of listening situations you’ll be participating in before your next visit. Are you planning to attend the big game at the stadium? Maybe you’re having your holiday office party at the noisiest restaurant in the city. Is your home the gathering place for your kids and grandkids? Your hearing healthcare professional will be able to adjust your hearing instrument accordingly so that you can hear your best.
2. Be prepared. All of you former Boy Scouts know exactly what we’re talking about here. If you’re traveling, make sure you take along the hearing aid supplies you might need – batteries, extra tubing and your dehumidifier. If you’re in charge of selecting the restaurant for the company or family gathering, choose one that’s quieter, ask for a table in the least congested part of the restaurant and try to schedule the outing on a one of their slowest days.
3. Ask for what you need. More than likely, many of the people you’ll be interacting with this season won’t exercise perfect communication etiquette. If it’s easier to understand little Suzie when she doesn’t have her fingers in her mouth, ask her to remove them. If your teenage grandson mumbles when he talks, ask him to speak slowly and look directly at you when he’s talking. And, if Uncle Fred insists upon yelling at you from the other room, let him know it’s much easier for you to understand what he’s saying if he’s in the same room with you when he says it.
If you’re traveling, let the attendant at the airport gate or train station know you have hearing loss. Sometimes it’s difficult – even for normal hearing people – to hear announcements regarding flight delays or boarding gate changes over the loud speaker. Enlisting someone’s help ensures you’ll arrive at your destination on time for all the festivities.
If you’re planning a day of shopping, call ahead and see if the stores you’ll be patronizing have personal shoppers who can help you navigate noisy aisles and checkout lines.
4. Reduce the background noise. Digital hearing aids do a wonderful job of minimizing background noise so you can hear the conversation, but there’s nothing wrong with helping them out a bit. When you can, take the conversation to a quiet room in the house. Turn the music and television off while you’re eating the family meal. Set up a playroom in an adjoining room for the kids to try out their new toys.
5. Put yourself in the best seat in the house. Where you sit at the family table can have a large impact on how well you hear. If your hearing is better on one side than the other, sit with the conversation on your good side. If you have bilateral hearing loss, sit on the end of the table so you can focus on the people to your left and right, but still see everyone. Do you typically sit the kids at a separate table? If so, make sure you sit as far away from their noise as possible (for hearing purposes only, of course!).
The same goes for your seat at the company dinner table. If you’re not in charge, let the organizer know you’ll be able to participate in the conversation more effectively if you’re seated at the end of the table. If the seating isn’t assigned, ask if you can reserve your seat or better yet, offer to arrive a few minutes early to help with last minute details so you can reserve it yourself.
For more ideas on how to reduce communication obstacles at your dinner table, be sure to read our article How to make your holiday dinner hearing friendly.
6. Give yourself extra time. Yes, we’re laughing, too. But seriously, if you’ve done any driving at all during the holidays, you’ve more than likely seen some stressed out people behind the wheel. If you can manage to leave the house a few minutes earlier than usual, you’ll give yourself additional time to navigate crowded roadways and parking lots. Your brain works harder to hear when you have hearing loss — especially if it's untreated — and you'll want to concentrate on hearing horns or emergency vehicle sirens instead of worrying about getting to your destination on time.
Also, do your best not to over schedule so you can have a few extra minutes to communicate with salespeople in crowded stores or order your coffee directly from the barista at the counter instead of dealing with a raspy speaker in the drive through.
7. Get enough rest. It’s easy to want to burn the midnight oil this time of year, what with all of the wrapping of presents and the baking of cookies and all, but if you have hearing loss it’s in your best interest to get as much sleep as possible. Studies indicate lack of sleep interferes with blood flow, which your auditory system relies on for good hearing health. Lack of sleep also causes mental fatigue. Since your brain plays a major role in the hearing process, it’s a good idea to keep it working at its best.
You may not achieve a total state of Zen by incorporating these tips into your chaotic holiday schedule; however, we’re hopeful they’ll take your stress levels down a notch or two. Regardless of what you’re planning, it’s the season for celebrating our love for family and friends. Whether you see loved ones in person or visit them virtually, make sure you’re able to communicate that message loud and clear.