November 22, 2016

P-A-R-T-Y Your Way to Better Hearing

Holiday season! For better or worse—ready or not—it’s here! My family and I love this time of year. I can’t help but get excited when walking into a store decorated for the holidays; Halloween pumpkins and skeletons change overnight to Christmas trees and wreaths. I love walking into people’s carefully decorated homes and smelling fresh baked pumpkin pie. There are endless parties and celebration full of delightful appetizers, wine and good company.

With all this holiday cheer comes a few extra pounds, and for those of us with hearing loss, some anxiety. Parties, whether for the holidays or any other celebration, are bound to have many conversations happening at once (with music or a television on as well). This creates a lot of background noise, which may be difficult for someone with normal hearing, but can be a nightmare for those with hearing loss. Anyone with hearing loss will have more difficulty picking out the speech they want to hear from all the other conversations and noise in the environment.

So, what can be done? Well you could spend the evening asking people to repeat, but after a while both you and the people your attempting to converse with will become irritated. Or you could wear hearing instruments. High-end hearing instruments are a huge help in these environments as they soften the background noise while focus the microphones on the person you are facing. Some of these instruments even offer accessories through a smartphone or remote mic to focus even more on the conversation nearest you.

Even with hearing instruments, some parties can be acoustic nightmares. For these situations, I’ve included a simple list of communication strategies to help you succeed—and maybe even enjoy yourself.

To help you remember, I created an acronym: P-A-R-T-Y!

P= Place yourself in the quietest area. Do not try to talk in front of a stereo or TV speaker.

A= Angle yourself away from the noise. Putting the majority of the noise behind you allows the directional microphones to do their job, focusing on the speech and softening the noise behind you.

R= Repeat what you heard. Chances are if you misheard something, it was just one or two words. If you repeat back what you heard the person speaking can focus their effort on what you misheard rather than repeating everything again.

T= Two sets of ears are better than one. If you are attending a party with a spouse or good friend, employ them as your extra set of ears. Topics can change quickly and sometimes without rhyme or reason. When this happens, have your spouse or friend give you clever hints to make sure you are following the conversation.

For example: If the topic changes from the big game to home improvement jobs gone wrong, your spouse can help you along by recalling your last attempt at changing the light fixtures. Just knowing the topic helps as it pulls to mind a specific set of words or ideas that may arise. If you’re discussing the game you may expect to hear the word “score” whereas if you’re talking about home improvement you may expect to hear “floor”. Both of these words start with soft voiceless consonants that can be lost in background noise. If you know the topic you can better guess at the word even if you didn’t hear it correctly.

Y= Yes, I’ll have more wine. When all else fails, just have your mouth too full to answer—or at least long enough to buy you enough time to figure out what was said.