During the holidays it can become apparent to family members when one of the family is having difficulty hearing. Family members with hearing loss may show the following signs (partially taken from Better Hearing Institute BHI website). Socially they may require frequent repetition; have difficulty following conversations involving more than 2 people; think that other people sound muffled or like they’re mumbling; have difficulty hearing in noisy situations, like conferences, restaurants, malls, or crowded meeting rooms; have trouble hearing children and women; have your TV or radio turned up to a high volume; answer or respond inappropriately in conversations; have ringing in your ears and read lips or more intently watch people’s faces when they speak with you. Emotionally they may be stressed out from straining to hear what others are saying; feel annoyed at other people because you can’t hear or understand them; feel embarrassed to meet new people or from misunderstanding what others are saying; feel nervous about trying to hear and understand; and withdraw from social situations that you once enjoyed because of difficulty hearing.

Holidays are chaotic enough without having anything holding you back from connecting with your family. Now imagine that you are hard of hearing and do not realize how much you are missing. You may not even recognize that you are asking people to repeat or that people are frustrated and just stop talking to you altogether. Getting hearing help and wearing hearing devices do not solve ALL communication problems for people with hearing loss but they DO give provide the tools by which a hard of hearing person can choose to communicate better.

According to a recent study (Better Hearing Institute), family members play a critical role in helping their loved one recognize and address their hearing loss and seek help. The study showed that more than half of first time hearing aid users indicate that family members were the reason they chose better hearing options. What better New Year’s resolution than to obtain help for hearing loss and to encourage those with hearing loss to put to use the tools that can benefit them most. To find a doctor of audiology who can provide professional recommendations, contact your state academy of audiology or follow the links provided at the end of this article.

My personal insight on the topic…

For myself, when the holidays roll around my level of stress increases as the crowds grow larger. Holidays with my family are difficult because of the number of people we cram into such a tight space. Being severely hard of hearing I have to employ some basic “survival tips for the hard of hearing” … the first being … forgive myself for not being able to follow all conversations all the time. I wear my hearing aids but they cannot repair the damage to my hearing organ, they can only assist me in using what hearing I have left. So in addition to using my hearing aids I follow some basic communication guidelines (or I try to at least). I have to remember to take time from the parties (say every hour or so) out or else I will suffer fatigue and headaches later. I try to get a family member that is chatty to follow me to a quiet spot. I read lips and look at facial expressions hand gestures to gather more information. I adjust my hearing aids to the noise setting or modify my volume control if needed. At my best I employ my FM system and point the microphone at the family member. FM assistive devices allow an increase in hearing over noise by placing the microphone close to the mouth of the speaker and hearing the speaker’s voice directly in my ear. Ideally I should use my FM system in all noisy situations. A bit of foresight is needed to be successful. I have to remember to charge my extra devices and to bring them with me to the events. I also have to introduce the equipment to anyone who is not familiar with it. These are necessary inconveniences that are well worth it when I can follow conversations! I am so glad for the technology available to me today! It is a wonderful time to be an audiologist.

More Information and Links

FM systems are a type of assistive technology for the hard of hearing. Read more on the American Speech & Hearing Association website article on Assistive Technology. You can also follow this link to see the FM system that I use most often (Phonak).

To learn more about the study mentioned in this blog, please visit the Better Hearing Institute website at http://www.betterhearing.org/press/news/pr_120709.cfm.Founded in 1973, The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) conducts research and engages in hearing health education with the goal of helping people with hearing loss to benefit from proper treatment. To receive a free copy of BHI’s 28-page booklet “Your Guide to Better Hearing,” visit its website at http://www.betterhearing.org/, or call the Better Hearing Institute hotline at 1-800-EAR-WELL.

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Happy Holidays!!

This blog posted by Suzanne Yoder, Au.D. Doctor of Audiology and owner of HearWell Center. Please visit our website for more information http://www.hearwellcenter.com/