During the holiday season as we think about gathering with family both in-person and virtually, we also remember that some family members may struggle to participate due to hearing loss. We may notice it when one of our loved ones ask us to repeat what was said or provides an inappropriate answer to our question. We might write off our observations of hearing difficulty in family members or we might oblige and repeat what we said or ask the question again, this time more slowly and louder.
As those closest to us, family members are often the first to observe a hearing difficulty and can be a source of trusted information. Here are some tips to starting the discussion with family and friends that have a noticeable hearing difficulty. First, you can gently mention in private that you have noticed they are asking for things to be repeated more than usual and you want them to fully enjoy the family events. Secondly, you can tell them you know that it is more difficult to communicate with a hearing loss in noisy situations like group dinners with multiple conversations going on at the same time.
We know that hearing loss is a difficult issue to tackle as many family members do not want to acknowledge they have a loss and may not want to take action to solve this problem. Our loved ones may be reluctant to go to a health professional during this time, but we can still encourage them to talk about their hearing difficulty. Many hearing healthcare professionals are available via tele-audiology tools to discuss the process of testing and rehabilitation of a hearing loss.
Comfort and confidence in an ability to communicate leads to greater engagement in more social situations. For our friends and family and even ourselves, this may include participating in bridge club, going golfing, attending book clubs, or joining in family gatherings. These types of activities generally involve getting some activity outside of the house, both physical and mental, which has been shown to improve overall health indicators.
This year, with many family gatherings taking place over Zoom or Facetime, it is even more important to be sure we speak in clear voices and one at a time, so we can all hear each other and enjoy the upcoming holidays. Remember, hearing is essential and we all play a role in the overall good health and wellbeing of our loved ones.