Blog: A Christmas Tool Kit 2023

By Sylvia, Peer Support Volunteer

Christmas is about giving, and the gift of hearing is a precious one, as those without it can appreciate to the full. Hearing loss affects confidence and self-esteem, and the added pressure at Christmas to take part in social events may create anxiety or even dread. Instead of looking forward to them, they become something to endure and escape from at the earliest possible opportunity.

Socialising is essential for a person’s wellbeing and helping to avoid feelings of isolation. So, whilst there is no magic formula, there are coping strategies to help achieve the best possible outcome. It is important to be kind to yourself and adopt the stance that you are going to give it your best shot and the rest is down to other people.

Tips for taking control of the occasion

I enjoy entertaining, so have invited some local friends of long-standing to my house for dinner prior to Christmas. This means I can control the environment, seating, and lighting.

I have been open with my friends about my hearing loss, but nonetheless I know that I will still struggle when conversation begins to flow. I find it helpful to have one-to-one conversations before sitting down at the table.

Once seated, I will make sure I will keep abreast of the conversation by saying: “so what are we talking about now?” I find that people relate well to that because it’s easy to forget that hearing friends are often unsure what you have heard and how to make sure you do hear.

It is tiring trying to hear, so this is where some time out in the kitchen can help to recharge. Towards the end of the evening, I tend to switch off and just focus on the ambiance, decorations, food and the pleasure of being amongst my friends.

For me, the value of socialising outweighs the anxiety it brings and with practice, the latter tends to ease, particularly if you can control the environment. What about social events where you have limited control?

Realistic expectations

Social gatherings in pubs are rarely easy for hearing loss sufferers. Although, there is plenty of good advice on the Hearing Link Services website about avoiding pitfalls such as windows, the bar, and the coffee machine, it is an unpredictable scenario. Whilst publicans usually oblige in turning the music down, the volume of chat may drown it out anyway.

In these situations, it is largely a question of avoid it or go with the attitude that you are going to make the best of it, using whatever assistive technology and communication strategies you have available.

If you do the latter, then it is a good idea to give yourself a time limit so that you can politely leave when it all becomes too exhausting. Your friends will respect you for having made the effort, despite your hearing loss.

However too much socialising can take its toll, so accept the right to choose whether to avoid or not. Obviously, family occasions at Christmas are not a choice, but it is worth bearing in mind that festive events can be stressful for family members for many reasons apart from hearing loss.

Christmas time with family

Before the event, make sure everything that needs charging is charged – hearing aids, technology, and phones. Ensure that you have replacements with you of items, such as hearing aid batteries and filters.

Remember that this is just one day in the year and tell yourself that you are going to enjoy it, irrespective of hearing loss.

Do be open about your hearing loss; it is not something to be ashamed of. If you do not tell people, they cannot help you and mostly the response will be positive and supportive.  It is also therapeutic to open up about it.

A very good communication tool to consider is a speech-to-text app for your mobile phone. You will find information on the most widely used ones on the Hearing Link Services website. These apps can make the difference between keeping up with a conversation and being completely lost. It goes a long way to removing the worry that you may interject with something unconnected to the topic! I find Live Transcribe extremely accurate even when several people are talking. Unfortunately, it is only free on Android phones.

Conversations with young people are often tricky because they speak quickly and do not necessarily face you, making lipreading hard. One way of dealing with this might be using an LCD eWriter available from our the Hearing Dogs Online Shop; get them to type onto a blank notes page on your mobile phone or just use good old pen and paper.

Games for everyone to enjoy

When it comes to games, they will be challenging, especially if there are rules to be learned. If possible, enlist the support of a listening buddy who can fill you in.

This year, I am going to have a game I have called Fingerspelling Challenge. Everyone will need to use/learn fingerspelling and be divided into teams of two. Each team must pick a word from a pile to finger spell for the others to guess. The team with the most points after an agreed number of rounds wins. Of course, if the finger spelling skills are inaccurate, it will add to the hilarity! Any game that widens the perception of hearing loss has to be a good thing.

Whichever family member is hosting the day, talk to them about where you will sit around the table. If you can have one to one conversation, with whoever is sitting next to you or across from you, it will help your ability to hear but again be realistic. Give yourself time out where possible and accept that you can only do so much, so try to relax and enjoy the occasion.

On that note, I wish you all a happy and social Christmas.

Disclaimer: Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Hearing Link Services or Hearing Dogs for Deaf People unless explicitly stated.

SylviaSylvia had a career in language teaching prior to suffering sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) over 10 years ago. Since then she has worked as a volunteer with RNID to improve communication with GP practices for patients with hearing loss and promote lipreading skills. Over the past few years, she has been a volunteer for the Hearing Link Helpdesk and written articles to raise awareness of the impact of hearing loss on everyday life.