Sound Advice by Ruth D. Bernstein
With the holidays approaching, I thought I’d write a column about communication tips. Then I remembered there is an excellent article on this topic already – Holiday Madness by CHC’s Arlene Romoff.
I thought about topics while volunteering at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where signs of the upcoming festivities are in full view at the museum’s gift shops, always a source of unusual presents. That’s when I decided to take a different approach.
Here’s my list of holiday gift suggestions for people with hearing loss. Since this invisible disability can be a significant source of stress for everyone when families get together to celebrate the holidays, I start with a gift you can give yourself.
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.
Use technology: I have an Oticon streamer with a microphone. The device helps to cut out background noise. Microphones on smartphones can be used to transcribe conversations. I use the AVA app to transcribe conversations. Always carry paper and pencil. Writing notes, the old-fashioned, inexpensive form of technology, also 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 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 email your appointment request.
Gift 3: Captioned phones. Many people have problems hearing on the phone. A captioned phone has a screen that shows the words that are being spoken. For more information on captioned phones, take part in CHC’s free weekly group demonstrations ever Thursday at 2PM in New York. Or click below to learn more.
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 membership for $35 annually. Members attend local monthly chapter meetings where they learn coping skills, participate in special events and meet other interesting people with hearing loss.
Going to the Annual HLAA Convention is an amazing experience because you discover you are not alone with your problems. There are more than 1000 people, all coping 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.
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:
Gift 6: Library Card. Your library card can do a lot more than you might realize. Reserve a NYC Culture Pass and access a variety of sights and activities for free.
Gift 7: Technology. I bought my first smartphone four years ago and find it an invaluable part of my life because I know I can always reach someone by texting or email. That raises my safety quotient and lowers my anxiety level a great deal.
I’m discovering the joys of wearing a computer on my wrist because I just bought an iWatch! An important feature of the watch is an SOS/911 app that allows me to contact my family, friends and 911 in an emergency. The watch is waterproof, so I can wear it in the shower and have access to the SOS app. It 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 a lot of fun!
Gift 8: Exercise. 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. For fifteen years, I worked as a volunteer gardener in Central Park, a most enjoyable task that included lots of physical activity. I recently turned 83 and decided it was time to retire and let younger people rake leaves, pull weeds and shovel snow.
In addition to walking as much as possible, I now attend Fall Stop Move Strong classes at my local JCC twice a week where I learn to keep my balance, stretch and lift weights. I’m up to 4 pounds and hope to go to 5 pounds soon. You can visit Fallstop.net and try their five basic exercises. At my request, Celeste Carlucci, the founder of Fall Stop, captioned the videos, which can be ordered on their web site.
Gift 9: Entertainment. I’m an enthusiastic museum visitor because I love art of all kinds and I’m a painter and photographer. I volunteer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s hearing accessible gallery tours.
Captioned and looped theater is always a treat. I’ve seen performances of Hamilton, The King and I, and Lion King, and many other shows. Go to 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. HLAA NYC has a resource page listing hearing accessible venues, including museums, movies and theater.
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 generous measure of patience, will help everyone have a happier holiday.
Best wishes to all for a happy holiday and a healthy 2017!
Ruth D. Bernstein Hearing Access Ambassador