If you have a family member or friend with hearing loss, the holidays bring unique challenges. While many people look forward all year to family gatherings and holiday parties, those with hearing loss may feel apprehensive or anxious.
One of the first signs of hearing loss is difficulty hearing in noisy environments. It can be especially difficult to understand speech over background noise like dinner music or a football game on TV. This is due to high-tone, nerve-type hearing loss that affects consonant sounds (necessary to understand words) that are in high frequencies.
It can be confusing because in quiet environments, a person may be able to hear and understand speech just fine. But add background noise, and he or she may only hear a low drone and miss the high-frequency sounds of speech.
“Just Getting By” Means Missing Out
It’s estimated that 10% of the U.S. population has hearing loss. Many don’t know they have a hearing problem or are reluctant to seek help. They may feel embarrassed or think they can “just get by” without treatment. But that means asking others to constantly repeat them- selves, feeling left out of conversations and not fully participating in festivities that could create cherished memories. Neglecting hearing health can lead to increased feelings of isolation and even depression.
Many people experience depression during the holiday season for a variety of reasons, including health problems. Adults who suffer from untreated hearing loss are more likely to report feelings of depression and anxiety than those whose hearing loss has been treated.*
How to Offer Support and Encouragement
Family members and friends can encourage those with hearing loss to do something about it. Here are some suggestions:
• Let them know they are not alone.
One in six baby boomers (ages 41 – 59) have a hearing problem, and one in 14 Generation X-ers (ages 29 – 40) already have hearing loss.**
• Discuss advancements in technology.
Today’s digital hearing instruments are not what most people expect. They can best be compared to tiny, yet highly sophisticated sound studios – processing and reproducing sounds faithfully.
• Dispel myths.
Just because someone has hearing loss, it does not mean he or she is going deaf. However, it is important to see a hearing healthcare professional to find the cause of the hearing loss and prevent it from worsening. Show them their hearing is important. Hearing loss can occur gradually – sometimes over many years. Perhaps they have forgotten how important hearing is to their quality of life. Reminiscing together about special gatherings may remind them of the times they, too, enjoyed the holiday bustle.
* Source: National Council on Aging.
** Source: Better Hearing Institute.