It is no surprise conversations at a crowded family gathering are difficult, more so for guests with hearing loss. While the holidays are wonderful to catch up with friends and family, it can be hard for people with hearing loss.
Fortunately, there are hearing devices that help you stay more in the moment at your family gatherings. If you already have a hearing device, it is important you wear them. Often, people think noise will just be enhanced with the hearing devices, however modern devices help with noise reduction by filtering out background noise and focusing on speech understanding.
You may not have hearing loss, but it is important to think about those guests that might, so help your guests with hearing loss stay involved in the party.
When music is in the background, and people are talking, no one hears the music. Consider turning it down or off when people are conversing. There is an acoustic phenomenon called the Lombard Effect, where people tend to speak louder when the noise is louder. Now imagine the guests raising their voices to overcome the background noise; it can be a lot for someone with hearing loss. Music can actually make the party louder.
It may be hard to leave a sink full of dirty dishes, but consider cleaning once your guests have left. For those with hearing loss, the noise of clattering dishes can be a distraction. Just live in the moment, and save the chores for after the party.
If your guests wear hearing devices, they are designed to detect background noise behind the wearer and focus in on the person talking in front of them. I tell patients, “Put your back to the noise, your friends and family with their back to a wall.”
The holidays are when people start to notice they struggle to hear. This can be a great time to have the conversation with them about their hearing difficulties. Let them know you don’t want them to miss out. Encourage them that it’s important to see their local audiologist for help with their hearing. This will ensure they are an integral part of every holiday gathering!
Remember to keep gatherings safe and socially distanced this holiday season.
By Dr. Haiden Nunn, contributing writer and provider at North Georgia Audiology & Hearing Center.