Fireworks, lawn mowers, air shows, outdoor concerts, and barking dogs are just a few of the reasons most of us consider summer to be the noisiest time of year. What we might not realize is that winter provides its own host of loud activities. One of the biggest challenges for people living with a hearing loss is distinguishing between sounds they want to hear and inconsequential background noise. This tends to occur in crowded areas, and when are areas more crowded than during the holidays? The following tips can help keep you on track to hear everything you want and nothing you don’t as you get ready to sip eggnog and toss another log onto the fire.
Go To A Quieter Room
Oftentimes big family dinners are noisy and chaotic. There may be music playing, small children making a ruckus, adults indulging in a little too much wine and laughing louder than usual, arguments, accidents, and all manner of excess noise. If hearing conversation is difficult, invite the people you’re speaking to into another part of the house once the meal is concluded, or even on a walk around the neighborhood. Not only will this provide a less stressful hearing environment, it fosters intimacy and connection with folks you may only see once or twice a year.
Invest In Hearing Protection
Musical events such as concerts, recitals, ballets, and plays can easily produce sound levels in excess of 115 decibels, which can be damaging to hearing if sustained for more than a few minutes at a time. You may not want to wear earplugs at a concert, but if you’re sitting close enough to the orchestra, it is the safest option. Higher-pitched sounds such as violins and piccolos produce sounds that are especially piercing, so a specialized set of earplugs that filters out certain frequencies will increase comfort along with keeping your hearing safe. Your audiologist can explore these options with you.
Give Quiet Gifts
There are few things children love more than toys that make noise. If there are little tykes around this year, at least one of them is guaranteed to receive a gift that drives everyone else crazy. The annoyance you feel when listening to this cacophony isn’t just the result of grumpiness; it is a signal that what you’re hearing is too loud. Many commercial toys designed for children emit sounds in excess of 85 decibels, and if held directly against the ear, permanent damage is likely to occur. Encourage quieter play by providing youngsters with less raucous playthings. Books, board games, art sets, and puzzles are excellent choices. If there is a noisy toy making the rounds, placing a piece of tape over the speaker is a good way to reduce the volume.
Avoid Loud Activities
It isn’t just music and toys that pose a threat to hearing during the holiday season. Snow blowers, snow plows, and snowmobiles can also serve up dangerous noise exposure. Many of these are even louder than lawn mowers! Try to avoid areas in which these devices are in use, and wear a sturdy pair of earmuffs anytime you are outdoors for an extended period. Many people enjoy hunting and skeet shooting during the winter as well, and firearms are a perennial source of harmful sound. Even a single shot can permanently damage hearing, so make sure you wear effective and reliable hearing protection while shooting (or steer clear of the range altogether).
Everyone living with a hearing loss is guilty of faking it from time to time. We pretend we hear what’s being said even if we can’t because it’s less hassle than asking someone to speak up or repeat themselves. Try not to do this. When possible, face the person who is speaking and do a little bit of lipreading. If there’s something you didn’t catch, look for context clues such as gestures or the reactions of others. With just a little bit of practice, this helps retrain your brain to recognize common micro-expressions that can clue you into what is being said. During the commotion of the holiday season, a little extra understanding can go a long way!
Before the festivities are underway, make an appointment with one of our providers to discuss hearing protection!