The most wonderful time of the year is here! The holiday season is often a busy, bustling time with lots of sounds and conversations swirling around us. While this is part of what makes the holidays exciting and special, it can also result in people having difficulty hearing conversations. These are our top five tips for hearing better during the holidays.

  1. Reduce background noise

While lively parties with music and laughter from loved ones is a great way to feel the holiday cheer, background noise is one of the biggest challenges for people with hearing loss. Whenever possible, try to reduce background noise in your environment by turning down the music, television, radio, etc. If you are hosting a party, consider designating a “quiet room” for people to move to for one-on-one conversations. Additionally, wait to do the dishes until after guests have left as running water and the clank of silverware create more sound than you think.

  1. Face-to-face communication whenever possible

When we are listening to conversations, we rely on so much more than just our ears to hear properly. Facial expressions, lip movements, and hand gestures provide additional context for what is being said. In order to benefit from these cues, make sure you actively look at the person you are speaking to in order to hear better.

If you have a cell phone with any video call applications (FaceTime, Zoom, Skype), consider trying a video chat instead of a traditional phone call while connecting with long distance loved ones this holiday season.

  1. Get Close to the Sound Source

Listening to clear, direct sound will always help you hear better than listening at a distance. The further a sound travels from the source, the weaker it becomes and the more unwanted sounds are mixed in before reaching your ears.

If someone is trying to speak to you from across the room, either move towards them or ask them to come closer to you to have a conversation. If you are attending any places of worship for the holidays, sit as close to the front of the venue as you can or sit in a row where there is a PA system speaker.

  1. Ask for People to Speak Slower

While you may have asked someone to speak louder in order to hear them better, have you ever asked someone to speak slower instead? Oftentimes, volume is not the issue, especially if you wear hearing aids! Try asking someone to slightly slow down their speech as they are talking, as giving your brain even a couple seconds longer to process speech can result in a dramatic improvement in understanding.

  1. Plan Ahead & Self-Advocacy

Most of the tips listed above require some degree of planning ahead and communicating your needs. Think ahead to the type of listening environments you will be in during the holidays, and act on modifications that are within your power. For example, if you are going to…

  • A restaurant: Dine at an earlier time when there will be less people there creating background noise or ask the host for a table in the corner of the room, away from the kitchen or speakers playing music.
  • An event with seating: Arrive early to get a seat up front or call ahead to request accommodations so you can be close to the primary sound source. 
  • A holiday party: Be prepared to explain to someone that you need them to slow down their speech or they need to come closer to you for the conversation in order for you to hear better. Additionally, talk to the host in advance to ask for a quiet space for conversations and for any music to be kept at a softer level–something all party-goers would benefit from! 

Remember that most people, both loved ones and strangers, are happy to make accommodations and adjustments if they know it will help you hear better. Do not be hesitant to ask for what you need!

Bonus Tip for Hearing Aid Users: Wear your hearing aids for at least 8 hours each  day, during the holidays and beyond!

The best long term strategy for better hearing is to wear your hearing aids every day for at least 8 hours each day (and ideally during all of your waking hours). The key to hearing better is to give your brain consistent exposure to proper sound. Not only does your brain need to practice listening with hearing aids, recent studies show that there is a correlation between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline. People who only wear their hearing aids a few hours a week tend to struggle even while wearing their hearing aids. This is because their brain has not had proper auditory input, therefore the brain may have begun to reorganize itself with less resources being dedicated to hearing and speech understanding.

We hope these tips will help you hear better throughout the holiday season so you can have quality conversations with the people you love and hear the sounds that make the season bright. From all of us at SoniK Hearing, Happy Holidays!