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Holiday Gifts for People with Hearing Loss

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

Sound Advice by Ruth D. Bernstein


Headshot of hearing access ambassador Ruth Bernstein smiling outdoors
Ruth Bernstein, Hearing Access Ambassador

My fellow hearing access advocates Carolyn Stern and Arlene Romoff present excellent articles about coping with hearing loss at holiday time. If you haven't already, please check out Holiday Communication Tips for Individuals with Hearing Loss and Holiday Madness, both indispensible resources.


Since holiday time is gift-giving time, I decided on a slightly different tack—suggestions for the gift givers, because hearing loss is an invisible disability that can be a significant source of stress for everyone when people get together for celebrations. 


Top Gifts for People with Hearing Loss


Gift 1: For the person with hearing loss—take care of yourself. Give yourself the gift of a plan for dealing with frustrating hearing situations.

  • Be good to yourself: My plan starts with realizing holiday gatherings are a huge challenge. Although I try to make every effort to hear and comprehend, I don’t berate myself when I can’t manage.

  • Ask for help: You can give yourself a special gift by asking for the accommodations you need. Although that may be hard to do initially, positive responses will help you and many others with hearing loss.

  • Get the most out your hearing devices: My Med El Cochlear Implant (CI) has a Bluetooth enabled audioloop with a remote mic I share individually or when I’m in a group. https://www.medel.pro/products/rondo2. Find out what technology is available for your hearing aids and cochlear implants and use it.

  • Keep in touch: As a great grandmother three times, I appreciate being able to communicate easily. Connect with family and friends using Google Meet, Zoom and FaceTime, all of which offer live captions. Apps that caption smartphone calls are also available. I use InnoCaption. They offer accurate live and AI captions for Android and Apple phones.

  • Embrace captioning apps: Once enabled, smartphones apps (e.g., Live Transcribe and Live Captions) automatically transcribe conversations. I also use the Otter or AVA apps for transcription and carry paper and pencil. Writing notes the old-fashioned way is an inexpensive form of technology that works well.

  • Quiet: Find quiet spaces for personal conversations.

  • Retreat: When it gets too noisy, escape to an out of the way place and give yourself a rest. I recommend a bathroom, a hallway, terrace, porch or a brief outdoor walk.


Gift 2: Be a good friend. Encourage people who need hearing help to see their MD or audiologist to have their ears checked. Volunteer to go with them and/or follow up on what they do. You can call CHC at 917-305-7766 in NYC or 954-601-1930 in Ft. Lauderdale for an appointment. Or you can request an appointment online. CHC also offers a free online hearing screening which can be a helpful first step.


Man using a CaptionCall phone that generates cations in real time

Gift 3: Captioned phones. Many people have problems hearing on a phone. A captioned landline phone has a screen that shows the words that are being spoken. To see if you qualify for a free captioned phone, visit CaptionCall. Florida residents can learn about a special statewide phone program here.


Gift 4: HLAA membership: I’ve been a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) since its founding in 1979 and highly recommend the annual $45  membership fee. Members attend local monthly chapter meetings online or in person.  They learn coping skills, participate in special events and meet other interesting people with hearing loss. Review past meetings

and see the upcoming HLAA NYC meeting schedule here.


Going to the Annual HLAA Convention is an amazing experience because you discover you are not alone with your problems. There are more than 800 people, all learning how to deal with hearing loss, gathered in the same place. That’s a good feeling!


In addition to receiving the informative bimonthly Hearing Loss Magazine, New York area members are eligible for discounts on hearing aid purchases at CHC. Learn more about HLAA-NYC membership here.


Gift 5: Books. I have a severe hearing loss and need a lot of quiet time to allow my brain to recover from the physical stress of listening. Reading satisfies that need. My recent choices:


  • An Hour Before Daylight by Jimmy Carter

  • Hear and Beyond by Shari Eberts and Gael Hanan

  • Hitler’s Gift by Jean Medwar and David Pyke

  • The Color of Water by James McBride

  • The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese

  • Team of Five by Kate Andersen


A man in a library receiving services at the library card services desk

Gift 6: Library card. Your public library card can do a lot more than you realize. Check out your library’s web site for more information. In New York City, you can go to in person and online classes, reserve books, music and movies, and get a NYC Culture Pass to access a variety of sights and activities for free.


Gift 7: Technology. My Apple phone is an invaluable part of my life because I know I can always reach someone for help by texting or email. As a ninety year old, that raises my safety quotient and lowers my anxiety level a great deal. The phone is a portable connection to my community, information resource, adding machine, wallet, camera and photo library, car service connector and, best of all, my library on the go. I can read 600 page books by opening my phone!


My Apple Watch has an SOS app that will contact 911 automatically if I fall and am unable to respond within a minute or two. It will also contact my family in an emergency. That is something I and my family really appreciate. The watch is waterproof. I wear it in the shower and have access to the SOS app. As backup, I keep my phone next to the shower so I can ask Siri for help if I need it. The Apple Watch reminds me to stand up and move after I’ve been sitting at my computer for an hour, keeps track of my physical activity and heart rate, and gives me wrist-access to emails, texts and Apple Pay. Although smartwatches are not a must-have item, they are useful for seniors who live alone and want a fall-alerting device—and they are fun!


Gift 8: Staying fit. Exercise is one of the most important keys to staying healthy. It keeps the blood moving through your body and brain, which is good for your ears. 


In addition to walking as much as possible, I attend free online captioned exercise classes at DOROT. They also have lots of interesting programs like a series on history, book club discussions and online visits to  museums. Some online programs are recorded for future viewing.


Gift 9: Entertainment. CHC has an access Guide to NYC you can check out here. HLAA-NYC has a resource page listing hearing accessible venues, including museums, movies and theater.


I’m an enthusiastic museum visitor because I love art and culture of all kinds. Since COVID, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is no longer presenting hearing-accessible gallery tours. Hopefully, that program will resume soon. Check all museums for their accessibility services. Some are presenting in-person tours with assistive devices.


Captioned and looped theater is always a treat. Visit the TDF.org for tickets to hearing accessible Broadway performance.


Movies provide multiple types of enjoyable escape. AMC, Regal and some local theaters offer captioned and hearing accessible shows. Captioned movies are available on may streaming platforms, including Netflix, Apple TV, Disney and HBO. You can also find free movies. Visit Lifewire.com to make sure they are captioned.  


Bonus gift: If you have a hearing loss or know someone who does, be patient!  It’s hard not to get frustrated and angry when you can’t hear or when the person who can’t hear doesn’t answer appropriately. Here are some well known communication techniques:


  • Don’t speak until you can see the whites of the person’s eyes

  • Have the light on the speaker’s face

  • Speak a little slower and enunciate clearly


Those steps, along with a sense of humor and a generous measure of patience, will help everyone have a happier holiday.


Best wishes to all for a happy holiday and a healthy 2024!


Ruth D. Bernstein Hearing Access Ambassador


Contact Hearing Access Ambassador Ruth Bernstein at Buzz@chchearing.org to share comments about this blog post or suggest other topics you'd like her to address.


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