Tips and tricks for better hearing this Christmas

With family connection to be cherished this year, here are ways we can all help people with hearing impairment feel more included during the festive season.

Christmas 2020 is fast approaching.

Lots of thoughts are invoked when we think about this time. Excited children, presents, great food and drink, and of course spending quality time with friends and family.

But with the strange year 2020 has been maybe Christmas 2020 will be different.

COVID-19 has shaken up 2020. “Lock-downs” and” Restrictions” have meant that many of us have not been able to catch up with friends and family as much. This has led to social isolation for some people and in turn, compromised the health of people.

What will Christmas 2020 look like?

In Queensland, we have been fortunate. So much so that things are unlikely to be much different if restrictions stay the same as they currently are.

But if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to make the most of the time we do get to spend with family and friends and ensuring that everyone can be involved.

We know social gatherings can be really hard sometimes for people with hearing loss, so we have put together some tips and tricks to help.

You can use these tips and tricks to improve your experience and connection over this wonderful time of the year.

There are tips for people with hearing problems and suggestions for family and friends as well. Share these around to get the most out of Christmas.

How can the hearing impaired optimise their experience when in these Christmas social occasions?

Let the group know you are hearing impaired.

Sounds obvious doesn’t it, but it is surprising how many people don’t do this even in the company of friends and family. It doesn’t need to be a “tapping a spoon against a wine glass” announcement but simply make people aware that you have a hearing loss.

Reduce background noise

You are at a family Christmas event – chances are there is music playing, or the TV might be on for the kids – ask for the volume to be reduced. If it’s Boxing Day then there is a good chance the TV will be on in the background broadcasting the cricket – no one will mind if the volume is lowered.

Wear your hearing aids

Again sounds obvious but you would be surprised. I was over at my wife’s family’s place for Christmas last year. My wife’s grandmother was complaining that she was struggling to follow the conversation. I know she has hearing aids, and guess what? She wasn’t wearing them!

Position yourself optimally

Ok, this one is easier said than done; however, it is worth doing.

Do not position yourself at the back of a group conversing unless you do not want to be part of the conversation. Position yourself so that you can easily see each person. Visual cues are a huge help when trying to follow a conversation.

Make listening a priority

If you want to be part of a conversation, then you must make an effort. This alone, of course, does not guarantee success. However, it may help. What does that mean? Don’t simply smile and nod if you are not sure what was said – don’t be afraid to ask for repeats; be aware of the topic of conversation.

Be realistic

Normal hearing people do not hear everything in social gatherings, so it is not realistic for you to hear everything either.

What can the family and friends of a hearing-impaired person do to help them hear better in the Christmas social setting?

  • Say the person’s name before starting a conversation. This gains the attention of the hearing impaired person and gives them a chance to get ready to listen.
  • Speak slowly, clearly and at a substantial volume. Do not shout or use exaggerated mouth movements. Shouting distorts speech making it harder to hear. Exaggerated mouth movements will hinder the listener’s ability to use lip-reading cues.
  • Avoid speaking too quickly. Slow down your speech a little and pause between sentences to make sure that you have been heard and understood before continuing.
  • Keep your hands away from your mouth and face while you are talking. Hands near the face will impede the listener’s ability to use non-verbal cues.
  • Seat the hearing impaired person(s) in a position that will give them the best view of the speakers.
  • Be mindful of background noise distractions. Some confident hearing impaired people will speak up… most will not. Be aware that background music and noise is a big barrier for hearing impaired people hearing and following a conversation.
  • Be empathetic and patient. Even if all these strategies have been adhered to, the hearing impaired individual will still not catch everything and may need to ask for repeats. This is not because they are not listening properly or being lazy but merely the reality of living with hearing loss. Be respectful and courteous in these situations.

So how does this happen in real life?

Well, it is easier said (typed) than done. However, it really isn’t all that difficult. The key is to try and follow these strategies where and when we can. Then we will go a long way to achieving our desired result — helping the hearing impaired individual to participate and feel connected at the Christmas gathering.

Can hearing technology help in social Situations?

Absolutely! Hearing aid technology has come a long way in the last few years. Below are just a few features that have improved in that time. These are features that help people make the most of hearing in social situations.

Beamforming Technology

This technology uses the 4 microphones available in a bilateral hearing aid fitting

By utilising multiple microphones, speech from 360 degrees is calculated and compared. The direction with the best signal-to-noise ratio is automatically selected.

Speech Enhancer

Increases the peaks of soft speech in calm situations to improve hearing over a distance

Comfort in Echo

Reduces reverberation to improve hearing in an echoey environment

Assistive listening devices can also help people with hearing aids hear better

Most hearing aids these days will allow you to connect to different accessories that will further improve your listening experience in complex environments.

Remote Microphones/FM Systems

These systems make use of the wireless technology that is available in hearing aids today. Let us head back to the Christmas festivities. We are sitting around a table enjoying Christmas lunch. The hearing aid user simply places a microphone device in the middle of the table. This device sits closer to most of the people around the table than the hearing impaired person. So when someone talks the speech is picked up by the table mic and sent directly to the hearing aids.

Christmas is about spending quality time with friends and family. Don’t miss out on the conversation….be a part of it!

If you would like to discuss options for hearing better, talk to Greg or Sharon at Audiology Trio. We are local, experienced, and independent. Contact us today.