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'Tis the Season to Hear Better

12/23/2015

Thanks to Catherine Jons, Au.D., for this week’s guest blog post.

The experiences of a person with untreated hearing loss versus someone with normal hearing are very different, especially when it comes to noisy gatherings. The following scenario is based on actual occurrences shared by people with hearing difficulties.

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You attend a big family dinner held at a large, popular restaurant. You’re seated at a long table in the middle of a dining room surrounded by many other tables of seasonal celebrants. The sounds of laughter, clattering dishes, and conversation fill the air while holiday tunes play in the background.

Your grandchildren down the table from you suddenly throw their heads back and laugh, but you have no idea why. You decide to laugh, too, so that no one thinks you missed the joke.

Then your son holds up a glass and you join everyone else in raising yours. Although your family’s table quiets down, chatter from other tables prevents you from hearing more than every other word of his toast. You only know when to smile, nod, or drink by watching what everyone else does.

You spend the rest of the meal asking anyone who seems to be talking to you to repeat themselves. After awhile, you give up and just nod at whatever someone says, hoping that between reading their lips and expressions you are reacting appropriately.

By the time dinner ends, you’re exhausted. You can’t wait to get home where it is quiet and you no longer have to struggle to keep up with others.

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Sound familiar? If so, it’s no wonder you might prefer to spend this season avoiding social gatherings. No one wants to feel left out due to an inability to understand what is being said―or worse, because family becomes frustrated and gives up trying to include you. It’s time to consider your options for making this holiday season one you and your family actually enjoys spending together.

Should you skip the parties?

Staying home alone is not the answer. Many studies have shown that social isolation contributes to serious mental, physical, and emotional disorders, including:

The holiday season intensifies feelings of sadness and loneliness for many people. Choosing to avoid parties, family dinners, and other happy occasions only strengthens these negative emotions. Resigning yourself to missing the enjoyment of friends and family because of your hearing loss is not a solution.

Can you depend on translators?

You may be tempted to allow a helpful friend or family member serve as your “translator” during social gatherings. A translator will sit beside you and automatically repeat what a server asks you at a restaurant or a joke your granddaughter made at the other end of the table. While that might seem like a viable alternative, what it actually does is keep you isolated even when surrounded by others. It also encourages people to give up speaking to you directly or trying to include you in conversations. By talking around you or through your translator they are excluding you as an equal participant in their celebration.

Take control of your hearing loss

Remaining isolated or using a translator enables you to avoid taking actual steps to address your hearing loss. Pretending you can get along okay without hearing or understanding others does not make the problem go away. It’s time to take charge of your condition and make an appointment to have your hearing tested. Or, if you have already been diagnosed with hearing loss, stop putting off treatment and talk to a hearing care professional about getting hearing aids.

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