Hearing for the Holidays

The holiday season is here! If you have difficulty hearing, you may not be looking forward to holiday gatherings and parties as much as you used to. This time of year can bring up some anxiety for people who have hearing loss. You or your loved ones may worry about how well you can communicate during family gatherings, or you may fear being embarrassed when you don’t hear conversation correctly. Background noise and group situations require your constant attention, and this can be tiring and overwhelming.

It may be enough for you to want to opt out of holiday festivities altogether. But don’t miss out on all of the fun! There are a few simple things you can do to get the most out of your holidays, even if you have difficulty hearing.

Let the Host Know

Before the party even begins, let the host of the party know you find it harder to hear in group situations and in background noise. Let them know that you are a bit self-conscious and you just want them to be aware of your hearing issues. That way, they can help facilitate a better experience for you by giving you particular seats at the dinner table, for example.

Ask for Brighter Lights and Lowered Background Music

Holiday gatherings, particularly at night, may have low lights and background music that can make it difficult for you to hear or communicate. Suggest that the host brighten the atmosphere and turn down the music a bit. This will make communication easier for everyone at the party, not just for you.

Keep it Separated

If there are a few different things going on at the gathering, suggest they all be sectioned off into different areas of the space. For example, karaoke in one room, the meal or buffet in another room, dancing in another room, and games in a different room. This will keep the background noise to a minimum and help to preserve your sanity when trying to interact at the party.

Stay Engaged, and Take a Break When you Need It

Communication may be a bigger effort for you than it used to be, so if you feel overwhelmed or fatigued, don’t be afraid to separate yourself to a quiet place for a break. That way when you do engage with others you will feel refreshed and won’t get irritable.

Keep Communication in Mind

If you want to be included in the conversation, you need to be able to hear what is going on. Ask if you can be seated in the middle of the table instead of on the end (even though often the end is dedicated as a place of honor) so you can be included in the conversation.

If you keep communication in mind and involve your host, you will have a much better experience and don’t have to worry about going to gatherings this holiday season.

Schedule a Tune Up

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for your annual hearing evaluation and, if you wear hearing devices, to make sure they are working at their best. If your devices have older technology, this may be a good time to test drive something new. Ask us about trying a set of demos during the holidays. You might just be amazed at how well you can hear.

TRAINING YOUR HEARING: A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT

If you have hearing loss, it’s a good idea to take positive steps to avoid further hearing damage. Here are five “workouts” to help strengthen your hearing skills.

Regular Exercise

Staying active all day long will help to keep blood circulating, which provides benefits to all areas of your body, including your ears.

Even light exercise is great, just as long as you do some of it every day. You can jog, cycle, or walk. Even stretching exercises like yoga and Pilates can qualify. And if you do a lot of gardening or housework—you know that can get your heart pumping as well!

Just remember, if you exercise to the tune of music, try to keep the volume low, especially when using ear buds. Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common type, and music is a repeat offender.

Stretching

Did you know that deep breathing and stretching exercises like in yoga can also help improve hearing?

We hear all the time that yoga has a lot of health benefits, and it can strengthen hearing by increasing blood flow to your ears, among other areas. Deep breathing and stretching are a light exertion and count as exercise!  

Where there is increased blood flow your body can also detoxify effectively, which can improve nerve function. All of these factors are positive and can help maintain healthy hearing.

Puzzles and Games

If I asked you which organ plays the biggest role in your hearing, you might say your ears, but you would be wrong! Your brain is the powerhouse when it comes to hearing and listening comprehension. Your ears are like sound funnels: they carry the sound in, but your brain translates and makes those sounds understandable to you. Therefore whatever you do to exercise your brain will positively impact your hearing skills too.

The brain needs exercise just as much as the rest of your body does! Games, riddles and puzzles like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and word searches are not only fun, they also serve as brain exercises which combats atrophy. Atrophy is known as demntia when it begins to not only affect your hearing but your mental capacity and reasoning abilities.

Pretty much any game counts here: social games like poker, bingo and hearts are a workout for your brain while being a fun activity with friends.

Practice Focus

You can find hearing exercises online or from your audiologist as well. These exercises are meant to improve your hearing capabilities and give you good practice at distinguishing sounds.

Here’s an exercise to try that can help you focus and train your hearing in an environment with a lot of distracting background noise:

Turn your TV or radio on so you can hear it clearly. Next turn on music or another competing noise. Have someone else walk around the room you are in, reading sentences from newspaper or a book. With your eyes closed, repeat the sentences back, and picture where they are in the room. This exercise in concentration can help you a lot with focus in an environment with a lot of background noise.  

Concentrate

Here’s one more exercise that you can do when you are alone almost anywhere. If you are at a park or a restaurant or anywhere else, close your eyes and open your ears. Pick out the noises around you. Recognize the sound and pinpoint its location. This exercise will help you to interpret sounds and focus in environments where there is a lot of background noise.  

Your physician or audiologist will be happy to do annual hearing evaluations with you to detect changes in hearing ability much more quickly than you could notice it yourself. The earlier hearing loss is detected the better. Devices and exercises can work to stop the progression of hearing damage so it doesn’t worsen.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening. We can discuss hearing aid options with you and work with you to find one that fits your budget.

HOLIDAY PARTIES FOR THE HEARING IMPAIRED

During the holidays, family gatherings and parties abound. For those with hearing loss these festivities may be a source of stress and insecurity. The constant concentration required to focus on conversation with a lot of background noise can be exhausting and overwhelming. Because of this, many people with hearing loss may avoid parties and holiday gatherings altogether.

If you have a loved one who suffers from hearing loss, making a few simple changes can help them to be more comfortable at your party and make them happy to attend your gathering.

Turn down the music; turn up the lights.

Parties can be dark and noisy with loud music. If your interior is bright and the music is not too loud, it can keep the noise levels down and help people to see and understand their conversation partners better.

Break it up.

Set aside areas for different activities and space them out: a space for mingling, a space for eating, another for dancing, and another to watch sporting events. This can break up background noise and make the party easier to navigate.

Watch out for wallflowers.

When people are exhausted from the efforts of communication and want to escape, they may retreat to a quiet room or corner. If you see someone doing this, engage them in a one-on-one conversation in a quiet area so they don’t feel left out. And don’t push them to return to the festivities until they are ready.

Be mindful of the needs of guests.

We often think to ask in advance about dietary restrictions, but we can also ask about other issues guests may have, and if they have a seating preference at the dinner table as a result. If you can seat someone with hearing issues in the middle of the table instead of the end, it could help them to hear what is going on better and feel more involved in the evening.

Breaks can be good.

If you see a loved one “taking a break” from the party, allow some time for them to regroup. They may just need five or ten minutes of peace and then be ready to get back to the party.

If you plan your party with your hearing-impaired loved ones in mind, it’s much more likely that they will be comfortable enough to attend and have a great time at your gathering.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.