Hearing Better This Holiday Season

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is urging families across America to keep loved ones with hearing loss close this holiday season by encouraging them to get their hearing checked and to have any hearing loss properly treated. By visiting www.hearingcheck.org, family members can use a simple, interactive screening tool to check their hearing in the comfort and privacy of their own homes. Or families can check their hearing together during holiday gatherings as a way to offer support.

"The holiday season is meant to be a time of thanks, celebration, and joy," says Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D. Executive Director of the Better Hearing Institute. "But for many people, it is a time of year when unaddressed hearing loss can cause them to feel particularly isolated and depressed. Even when surrounded by loved ones a family member's impaired ability to hear and actively participate in conversation cuts them off. Oftentimes, they are left with a sense of sadness, inadequacy, and emotional isolation. This is especially true when the hearing loss is either unrecognized or is being 'hidden' by the family member with hearing loss."

Hearing loss is one of the most commonly unaddressed health conditions in America today, and affects more than 31.5 million Americans. Sixty-five percent are below retirement age. When left untreated, hearing loss can lead to isolation and depression-a health issue that is already prevalent during the holiday season and may likely be more widespread this year given the added financial worries that many Americans are currently facing.

So this year, be especially vigilant if you see that Uncle Fred is quiet at Thanksgiving or other holiday dinners. Maybe he can't hear you and needs your help in bringing him close to the family again.

Signs and symptoms of hearing loss include not being able to hear well in a crowded room or restaurant, having trouble hearing children and women, keeping the television or radio turned up to a high volume, needing to ask family and friends to repeat what they're saying, or experiencing ringing in the ears.

"When a family member experiences unaddressed hearing loss, it silently erodes the loved one's quality of life-undermining family relationships, interfering with short-term memory, and creeping into virtually every aspect of daily living," says Kochkin. "The good news is there are solutions to help loved ones with hearing loss regain the gift of sound so they don't need to draw back in silence. Hearing loss can be easily diagnosed, and there are modern-day solutions that can help people hear better."

If someone you love is experiencing hearing loss, try these tips to help them feel included in your upcoming holiday celebrations:

  • Keep the volume on the music and television down. Background noise makes it difficult for people with even mild-and sometimes undetected-hearing loss follow the conversation.
  • Try to talk to your loved one from the side that he or she hears best.
  • Face the person when you are talking to them, and keep your hands away from your face.
  • Speak clearly and not too fast. Remember not to talk loudly or shout.
  • Write a sincere, loving letter before a big holiday family dinner or get-together, or suggest that your loved one write one, to remind folks about the need to speak clearly, one at a time, and to use effective communication strategies, such as repeating then rephrasing when your loved one doesn't understand them.
  • If you plan to host a holiday dinner or party, consider leaving the dishes and silverware in the china closet. Instead, use holiday-themed paper plates and plastic cutlery. This will cut down dramatically on the noise from cutlery clattering on plates.

If you and your loved one with hearing loss are traveling during the holidays, you might consider these tips as well:

  • Offer to drive so your loved one doesn't have to concentrate on heavy holiday traffic while trying to converse.
  • If flying alone, encourage your loved one to let the flight attendants know that he or she has a hearing loss. Even with perfect hearing, it can be a challenge to hear at the ticket counter, security checkpoint, and gate. Airlines are required by the Department of Transportation to accommodate requests for meet and assist services for individuals with hearing loss. Difficulty hearing in-flight and other announcements about boarding information, connections, and gate changes can seriously jeopardize a person's success in having a safe and hassle-free trip.

"Most important, if someone you love appears to have a hearing loss, encourage them to get a hearing screening," Kochkin urges. "Many people decide to get their hearing checked because someone they love suggested it and provided support. And now, with the interactive tool available at www.hearingcheck.org, family members can more easily take that first, critical step in reclaiming their hearing, quality of life, and relationships. What better gift can you give this holiday season?


Content provided by the Better Hearing Institute.  Founded in 1973, BHI is a not-for-profit educational organization whose mission is to educate the public and medical profession about hearing loss, its treatment and prevention. To receive a free copy of BHI's 28 page booklet "Your Guide to Better Hearing," visit its website at www.betterhearing.org or call the Better Hearing Institute hotline at 1-800-EAR-WELL. Visit www.hearingaidtaxcredit.org for information on The Hearing Aid Tax Credit (H.R. 2329 and S. 1410)-legislation that would provide a $500 tax credit per hearing aid, available once every 5 years, for dependents and for those aged 55 and older.