Holidays & Hearing Loss


The holiday season is marked by parties and gatherings where we get together with family and friends to celebrate. There is laughing and excited conversations around the table and plenty of loud music while shopping in the busy stores. For those with hearing impairment, like myself, it can be very stressful being around loud conversations, especially with background music interfering with your ability to hear clearly. When planning or attending gatherings with friends and family, here are some useful tips to help the hearing impaired and their loved ones communicate effectively so that all may enjoy the holiday season.

  • Try not to have too much background noise present, like Christmas music and the TV playing. This interferes with hearing conversations.
  • Get the hearing impaired listener’s attention first, so they know you are going to speak with them. Look at the listener and speak slower (not louder), enunciating the words.
  • Communicate with the hearing impaired listener in a well-lit area, so they can see your face to allow for lip reading and observation of your facial expressions. Do not speak with your mouth full or covered.
  • Do not kiddingly say to the hearing impaired listener, “Do you have your hearing aids in?” This makes everybody feel self-conscious.

Hearing aids are a tool and cannot replace our natural hearing. When there is permanent damage to the hearing nerve cells, the sounds and speech can come through to the brain distorted. This can make it difficult to hear clearly, even with hearing aids which make sounds and speech louder, yet the ear may still distort this information.

For some individuals, speaking louder or turning the sound up can distort the sounds as well. Hearing aids are geared to pick up speech, but they may try to pick up the background speech sounds versus the wanted conversation.

Digital hearing aids perform better for the hearing impaired individual when they can sit at the head of the table with nobody directly beside them. The filters of the hearing aids will try to eliminate the excessive noise beside and behind the hearing impaired listener, so the hearing impaired listener’s back should be towards the majority of unwanted sound.

Hearing aid wearers should have their hearing aids checked and cleaned before the holidays to ensure maximum performance. Keep extra batteries handy. Ask if closed captioning can be turned on the TV for added benefit. If you do not understand the conversation, let others know and ask them to repeat at a slower speed. There are many assistive listening devices that may work with hearing aids to help you hear better in noise. Ask your audiologist what products may work for you.

If you need help hearing during this festive season, do not hesitate to reach out to UNC Regional Physicians Ear, Nose and Throat where our highly qualified audiologists can evaluate your hearing for a happy, health holiday season.

Pamela Houck, Au.D.

Doctor of Audiology