When you have hearing loss, the holidays themselves can be hard to manage, much less the chaos the season and its festivities can bring. Even with smaller family gatherings, being indoors can increase noise levels, making it difficult to hear.

You don’t need to miss out on conversation or feel bad for asking people to repeat themselves; be open and honest about your needs and include your family and friends in your hearing loss journey.

At CaptionCall, we want to help you make the most of and enjoy the season, so we have compiled a list of 10 tips for managing the holidays with hearing loss.

10. Get the right spot

Whether you have assigned seating or not, try to pick a spot at the table—like somewhere near the middle—where participating in any conversation is easy, but take care you aren’t in a position where you’ll be drowned out and overwhelmed by everyone else’s dialogue. You could also plan to sit next to your favorite conversation partner. An additional thing to consider is that being next to a wall could help cut out any potential noise coming from behind you. Finally, when speaking, try not to carry a conversation across the table or talk over others.

Sometimes, these options are not all available at the same time, but if you think ahead and communicate with your family and friends, you can make a plan.

9. Cut out the background noise

It usually doesn’t take long for a holiday meal around the table to get loud, but what about background noise? Does someone have the TV on? Is there holiday music playing?

If you’re hosting this year, make sure to limit these noises—or cut them out entirely. If you aren’t, ask if your host would be willing to accommodate your hearing loss by turning the volume down or moving the source further away so it doesn’t interfere with your conversations.

8. Go virtual

Due to COVID-19, this year looks different than any other. With the ongoing pandemic, it might be a good idea to save some money by connecting over the telephone or holding your family gatherings virtually using a video chat service like Zoom or Skype. Both options make cutting out background noise easy—and if someone starts family drama, you can mute or even boot them!

Who knows? With how easy they are, you may end up loving virtual family get-togethers—and you won’t have to force down Aunt Petunia’s awful holiday casserole!

Hearing Loss During the Holidays

7. Be open and honest

When you miss part of the conversation, don’t just nod along; speak up and let people know, and try not to fall into the trap of laughing because everyone else is laughing. That’s not fair to you or to them.

There may be a stigma attached to hearing loss, but you can break it by opening up and being your own advocate about your experience. Not only will this give you more confidence, but it will help others realize how important it is to you.

6. Set expectations

Part of being your own advocate is letting your party know ahead of time that you may not hear everything. Make it known that you will not be afraid to ask people to repeat themselves and that if you put your hand to your ear, it’s a signal that you’re struggling to hear. Tell them there may be times when they need to take a step back and slow down, speak up, or cut out the background noise.

Since masks should be a part of this year’s gathering, ask your relatives to wear clear masks if they have them so you can still read their lips. This may be uncomfortable—especially if it’s not your personality type to make such requests—but it will have a huge impact on your holiday experience.

5. Have patience

This refers to both patience for yourself, and patience for those around you. Let people know you are trying and that you see they are trying.

Did you miss part of the conversation? No worries: forgive yourself and have patience, knowing it will happen again.

Did someone speak too fast or too softly? No worries: forgive and have patience with them as they learn to effectively communicate with someone experiencing hearing loss. It’s not always intentional, either; some people just don’t think about it at times. Things will get better.

4. Take a break

Some don’t quite understand the fatigue that comes with straining yourself to make sure you understand every word of a conversation. The same sort of thing happens when you are trying to learn a second language and are put in a situation when the new-to-you language is spoken exclusively. All this goes to show that if you feel overwhelmed, you shouldn’t feel bad about taking a break; step outside or duck into a quiet room to center yourself and give your ears and brain a rest.

3. Wear hearing aids

This part is key. Whether your hearing aids are top of the line or not, they will assist you tremendously in hearing more conversations and activities. They will also serve as a reminder to your family and friends that you experience hearing loss and that you’re trying everything you can to hear them. These simple reminders can go a long way.

If you’re new to hearing aids, practice at home with different volumes and settings to make sure you find that sweet spot for you.

2. Take advantage of assistive technologies

There are many technologies other than hearing aids that are designed to help make hearing loss more manageable and to help you improve your overall well-being. CaptionCall is a wonderful, no-cost and federally funded option for year-round communication if you have hearing loss and need captions to use the phone effectively. For those who qualify, it’s also convenient because our renowned customer service rolls out the red carpet for you; we deliver the phone right to your house and teach you how to use the service. If you prefer, there is also a self-install option.

You can take our captioning service with you when you’re on the go, too! Download the CaptionCall Mobile app directly to your Apple iPhone or Android device.

Hearing Loss During the Holidays

1. Have fun

This might be the most important tip of all: Whatever you do for the holidays, make sure to joke, laugh, play games, and have an otherwise outstanding time. As you build fond memories with your family and friends, try poking fun at yourself to bring some levity to your hearing loss, as it helps others to feel more comfortable with and manage the situation. Finally, express gratitude to the people you have in your life, knowing full well they are doing their best to help you in your hearing loss journey.