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Hearing Loss & the Holidays: Using Assistive Technology

Technology can help those with hearing loss during the holidays. Hearing aids are a great start. Are you getting the most out of your hearing aids and cochlear implants? Smartphone apps are up and coming and can be helpful as well. Using assistive technology can help lighten the load and increase participation for everyone. 

Before the holidays are breathing down your neck, check your tech prep.

Julia: You don’t need to be hard of hearing to look into the different technologies that help those with hearing loss for the holidays. Plan ahead for a more interactive, and inclusive, holiday gathering. Ask your HoHs what technology they are familiar with and what they might want to use. What will make it easier for them?  Together, you can prepare your smart devices and practice before the holidays. If they don’t know what will make it easier, research it together. Find solutions that work for both of you.

If you’re hosting, here are some suggestions:

  • Find out if your HoH has a table microphone compatible with their hearing aid. (Join our Nov 7th workshop to learn more.)
  • Ask them where the best seating is for their hearing.
  • If they don’t have a table microphone, have everyone download AVA to their smartphone and set up a group chat. When everyone is at the table, start the group chat with phones in position and watch the conversation flow. (Come to our workshop November 7th to learn more.)
A long table with a red and white checkered design. Four people on each side. When gathered with family and friends for the holidays, pick your best seat.
Pick your best seat. Chelle sitting to the left in the middle for hearing/seeing purposes. If more help is needed, use AVA and share the technology with others.

Are you a game day enthusiast? Or do you watch a specific movie every holiday?

TV Streaming Options

Did you know you can turn a smartphone into an external microphone to enhance sound on the TV? Yep you guessed it, there’s an app for that! There are many free apps today that turn a smartphone into a bluetooth streaming device. One of our students introduced us to Jabra Enhance Pro App. This app is free and looks like it pairs with most hearing aid brands. If you get a chance to play with it I would love to hear your experience with it. 

My husband does not have hearing aids. When he wants to understand dialogue when watching television, he uses bluetooth headphones. He also has a Google Pixel smartphone which is full of all accessibility items. One option is the ability to turn on “conversation mode” which blocks background noise. (I found this cool video to show you how.) 

When we watch television together and he needs more sound, we turn on conversation mode and put his phone by the sound bar. In conversation mode his phone will pick up the sound and stream the TV straight to his bluetooth headphones. Now he can hear better and I can have the sound bar at a reasonable sound level for myself. A caveat: the clarity depends on how much other noise is happening by the phone. It might pick up other external sounds. In our house, it’s usually a dog walking on the hardwood floors. 

Chelle uses assistive technology for the television.  Here she's holding up her phone which is streaming television sound to her hearing aids. A football game is on the tv.
Chelle uses assistive listening through her phone app. Here she is using Listen Everywhere at home to hear the football game.
Hearing Loss Technology Resource

Learn more about available technology for those with hearing loss by exploring the Diglo catalog. There are a lot of cool things in it! Explore available table mics, bluetooth accessories – hearing aids or ear bud capable- and all sorts of other gadgets. 

The Holiday Setting

Chelle:  Today’s technology is awesome! I’m willing to explore anything that has the possibility to make my life easier. Communication is an integral part of our relationships. This is how we stay connected. During the holidays we might see people we don’t get to see often. What assistive technology can we use to make the most of it?

Let’s set a typical scene. There’s 20 people crowded into one house. The house has high ceilings, wood floors and big windows. The holiday music is playing. People are talking above the music. Then people are talking above each other, talking over the music. This noise bounces around the room like crazy (reverberation). Though hearing aids are better than ever with background noise, it can still be overwhelming. People think our hearing aids are “hearing miracles” and don’t understand their limits. (Read our post on common Misconceptions.)

This scenario can be isolating for people with hearing loss. It’s hard to keep up and wears us down mentally and physically fast. We wander away. We might visit pets instead of people because verbal communication isn’t required. Instead of socializing, we play on our phone where hearing isn’t necessary. 

Set Your Stage

There are a few simple strategies that help make the holidays easier with hearing loss. One is setting your stage. 

  • Before the holidays, send the family an email explaining hearing loss challenges. Let them know what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to make a few requests. Ask them to help you find solutions.
  • Take hearing breaks as needed. Or limit your time in a noisy affair. If two hours are you limit, let people know it’s as much as you take.
  • Explore assistive technology BEFORE your holiday gathering. Play with the AVA group chat Julia suggested above. Look through the Diglo catalog and smartphone apps. Explore.
Do I sense a hesitancy to explore technology?

Here are 5 tips for getting comfortable with technology:

  1. Ask others with hearing loss what technology they use. Our community has big hearts and are always willing to share what works for them. There will be differences of opinions so listen carefully and pick what works for you. 
  2. Whatever you choose, look it up. Research it. Find reviews. Watch videos, with captions.
  3. Get familiar with your hearing aid app. Try the different options, play. If you are worried about messing with it alone, make an appointment with your audiologist and have them go through it with you. 
  4. Give it a try, push yourself outside your comfort zone.  
  5. Stay updated on technology. It moves fast. Go to local hearing loss support groups or attend online meetings. Ask what’s new. Follow pages that share technology. I like Hearing Tracker.
The Salt Lake HLAA chapter together for for their holiday social, probably around 2021.  Several people standing and 3 people sitting in front. A holiday wrapped present int he foreground on a table.
The Salt Lake City HLAA Chapter. A great group of people who share tips, strategies and technology when together.

Technology is our friend. Most of the time. Sometimes it’s frustrating but usually there is some kind of workaround.

Learn more with Hearing Loss LIVE!

We have a workbook and video presentation package available on Hearing Loss and the Holidays. Get it HERE.

Another Hearing Loss LIVE! post you might like: Hearing Loss Family & Communication: We share how we manage our communication with family. It’s not always easy.

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