Surviving the Holidays When You're Deaf

Hot chocolate and candy canes are two great things to associate with the holidays. It’s also a time when you don’t have to worry about school or work for a while. This is an opportunity to travel or spend time with family that you haven’t seen in a long time. It also means getting presents that you’ve been waiting for and watching old classics or new movies. But, the holidays can be exhausting when you are deaf or have a hearing loss. Sometimes people may forget that you’re deaf, which can be frustrating. That happens with me sometimes, as people forget that I need extra help despite having cochlear implants. Luckily, I have some tips for you or a friend who needs a little help for the holidays.

1. Don’t fake it and keep nodding. Change the game.

You might use a face which is second nature. You’re smiling and nodding as someone is talking to you. Internally you might be thinking, “What is he/she talking about?” The person who is talking might think you are understanding what he or she is saying, but in reality you’re not. Instead of giving up, try to change what’s happening. The smallest detail can help improve your situation. If there are a lot of people around you, try moving to a quieter place to hear better. Also ask the person to face you when speaking if you rely on lip-reading. It may feel embarrassing to ask the speaker to repeat what they are saying, but this will benefit you a lot. Sometimes the speaker may be asking you something important, and you need to be honest. If you’re in a dimly-lit room, it can be difficult to see the person’s face and lips. Try to find a place where it’s bright enough to see the person’s face. Light is important as it allows you to see the person’s lips clearly and understand them a little better.

2. Try to Use Technology to Help

As chaotic as the holidays can become, it’s a good idea to have some technology to help you along the way. Some deaf people may have hearing aids to help them hear, but some may not like wearing it. Hearing aids are a choice, but it might ease the struggle of understanding someone during the holidays. There might be people who speak with a soft voice, which can make it more difficult. If you have an FM system from school or a personal one, try investing in it for the holidays. If your school allows you to take it home, take that opportunity. Put it somewhere you are able to clearly hear what the other person is saying. Also try new settings in your hearing aids or cochlear implants. Thanks to technology, there are settings that could help make the experience better. There could be a setting in the hearing aid or cochlear implant that can block out background noise. There might be some people who don’t use sign language to communicate. Try using a pen and paper to communicate, or use your cell-phones to text each other. If they are interested, teach them a few signs to make it more fun. Invest in the technology around you, as you might be surprised how it can make your holidays ten times better.

3. Have Reasonable Expectations

You might not be able to understand what everyone is saying, which sometimes is okay. Take some time to have fun with the people you love. If you have a cousin or relative you’re close to, spend some time with them. Find an activity that might interest you both and won’t require a lot of talking. It can be board games, arts and crafts or even watching a movie together. Stressing yourself out over not being able to hear everything shouldn’t put a damper on your holidays. It’s better to have reasonable expectations, where you might be able to understand some things and not others. Large family dinners might occur during the holidays, where it could be hectic. Try to converse with the people near you during dinner. Take time to converse with others at a different times during the festivities.

4. Speak up during group conversations

Group conversations are difficult to avoid as you are surrounded by people you like a lot. The conversations go back and forth, which can be exhausting to follow. There might be instances where you ask someone what they are talking about and you get one of the responses like, “Oh it’s not important” or “I will tell you later.” If someone says that, don’t give up. Persist in asking them what is happening with the group conversation. You might be interested in the topic or having something important to say. Try to sit with someone who knows you very well during these group conversations. Ask that person to summarize the conversation or repeat what someone is saying. If you have your FM with you, try putting it in the center to amplify what is being said. Tell relatives or friends that you might need them to slow down so you can catch up. Speak up as it will help you be more included, while having less trouble in a group conversation.

5. Take Some Time For Yourself

The holidays can be exhausting as you are constantly pushing yourself to understand what everyone is saying. Allow some time for yourself. Read a book, watch Netflix, or do something that relaxes you. Holidays may be about spending time with others, but it is also a time for you to relax. This allows you to clear your head and get the energy you need for the next event. Everyone needs a break sometimes, especially when you have to work twice as hard to have a good time. Take the time you need and tell the people around you that sometimes you do need a break. Once you’re ready, go on and have fun with the people that you love.

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