The holiday season can be a difficult time for people with hearing loss, tinnitus, or hyperacusis (decreased sound tolerance). The hustle and bustle and crowded social events can make tinnitus or hyperacusis flare-up, and make it hard to understand conversations. This is true even for people with tinnitus and “normal” hearing). Sound sensitivity flare ups increase fatigue and stress making holiday coping harder.
Here are a few suggestions for your friends, family or loved ones to help you cope better in social situations:
- Be supportive during what can be a stressful noisy time.
- If possible, let the person with sound sensitivity decide if they want background music or sounds on. Let them set the loudness volume.
- Plan a refuge area in a quiet dim room away from the hustle and bustle so that people with sound sensitivity can take a break if they need to.
- Be understanding if someone has significant hyperacusis and needs to wear filtered earplugs during social gatherings or events. They can still hear, it just makes it more comfortable. These earplugs are also called social, high definition, or musician’s earplugs. They start around $20 online for premolded. Hearing health clinics offer custom molded filtered earplugs at up to $200, but they last about 5 years and custom fit the wearer.
- Use communication strategies to help in difficult listening situations. This might include:
- Speak face-to-face or from close by (not from another room or while walking away).
- Speak clearly and precisely, emphasizing key words and pausing between phrases and sentences. For example, “Tha shiplef ona twoweecruise.” becomes “The ship left on a two week cruise.”
- Get our attention before talking, e.g. say our name or gently touch our arm.
- Be aware background noise makes it harder to understand. Move to a quieter area to talk if you need to.
- If you’re going out, try to pick a quiet place with no or very low piped in music. Use apps like SoundPrint to help you find quiet restaurants or other locations.
- Use the so called French Exit for larger gatherings. Why ghosting a party is the right thing to do.
- When you can, use music to lower stress and anxiety. Anti-anxiety playlist proven by neuroscience.
- This 1 hour version of a song from the playlist – Marconi Union, Weightless – was voted most relaxing song ever. YouTube also has 2 hour and 10 hour versions for soothing sound anytime.
For everyone with sound sensitivity, have reasonable expectations of what you can do. Try not to feel like you have to do everything, go everywhere, or please everybody. Don’t forget to take care of yourselves. It’s the best way to improve holiday coping with tinnitus, hyperacusis, or hearing loss.
[Feature Photo by Andreas Rønningen on Unsplash]