Don’t Believe the Hype: Hearing Health Myths

Hearing loss is common throughout Utah and the rest of the country. Approximately 48 million Americans experience hearing impairment to a certain degree; that translates to one in five people in American Fork. Even those with perfect hearing probably have some misconceptions about hearing loss. Separating myth from reality will enable you to spot the signs of hearing loss and seek help if needed.

Five Common Myths About Hearing Loss

question mark written in chalk on a blackboard

Hearing loss is the third most common physical health complaint in the U.S.; only arthritis and heart disease rank higher. Yet, there is more confusion about hearing loss than almost any other condition. Let’s break down some of the most common myths.

  • Hearing loss only affects senior citizens. 

    While it’s true that age-related hearing loss is common, only about one-third of people with a hearing impairment are aged 65 or older. Hearing loss affects individuals of all ages—even teens and young adults. Noise, disease, trauma and other factors all cause damage to the hair cells in the cochlea that are responsible for hearing.

  • Hearing loss is just an annoyance.

    Nobody would argue that hearing loss isn’t a nuisance, but it’s more than just inconvenient—it can be downright dangerous. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to a number of physical, social and psychological side effects including depression, isolation, memory loss, diabetes, kidney disease and an increased risk of falling. In fact, people with hearing loss are 32 percent more likely to end up hospitalized. And hearing-impaired individuals in the workplace earn on average $12,000 less every year than their normal-hearing coworkers.

  • Hearing loss can’t be prevented.

    There are only two true inevitabilities in life—death and taxes (and plenty of people have tried to cheat both). Taking steps to protect your hearing when you’re younger can pay off once you reach your golden years. Noise is the most common cause of hearing loss; by limiting your exposure to loud sounds and wearing earplugs when participating in noisy activities are effective ways to prevent long-term hearing damage. Know when to bring along earplugs (e.g., when you are attending concerts or sporting events, riding motorcycles or jet skis, using power tools) and adopt the “60/60 rule” when listening to music through earbuds: keep the volume at no more than 60 percent of maximum and take a break every 60 minutes in order to give your ears a rest.

  • Hearing loss will get better without intervention.

    This, folks, is known as denial. It’s easy to believe when you first start noticing signs that they will be temporary, but the truth is, once the sensory cells in the cochlea are damaged, they will not grow back and there isn’t a magic pill or surgical procedure that will help. Hearing loss is a progressive disease that will only worsen over time. The best way for most people to regain their communication abilities is by wearing hearing aids.

  • Hearing aids are large and don’t work very well.

    Modern hearing aids are small and comfortable and come with a wide variety of features that enhance sound and improve your ability to communicate. Digital technology such as Bluetooth® enables you to stream directly with other devices, such as smartphones and televisions, and manufacturers are even starting to use AI to make “smart” hearing aids that will make your life even easier and more convenient. Manufacturers have pretty much eliminated issues that plagued hearing aid users in the past, such as whistling and feedback. You’ll be surprised by just how well your hearing aids will actually help you hear!

With the number of hearing loss patients growing worldwide, it’s important to understand the truth about this common health condition. If you have more questions regarding hearing loss or hearing aids, contact a hearing and balance specialist in American Fork.

Tips for Getting Water Out of Your Ears

Summertime in American Fork means backyard barbecues, baseball games, and floating down the river. This latter activity is a great way to beat the Utah heat but can lead to a painful infection and temporary hearing loss should water become trapped in your ears. Be sure to remove built-up water before it leads to problems.

Seven Techniques for Removing Water

kids swimming in pool

Water in your ears can lead to muffled sounds and a plugged-up sensation. This can lead to ear pain and discomfort, a loss of balance and coordination, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), runny nose and sore throat. If allowed to remain, you may develop surfer’s ear, swimmer’s ear or another condition that can lead to infection and hearing loss. That would turn your summer into a bummer!

The following techniques are helpful in dislodging water from your ears and allowing it to drain.

  • The Gravity/Jiggling Technique. Gravity doesn’t only help apples fall from trees onto the heads of young scientists; it can also cause water to drain from your ears. To help it along, lie down with your ear facing the ground, tilt your head and jiggle your earlobe. You can use a cotton swab to help the process along.
  • The Valsalva Maneuver. Closing your mouth, plugging your nose and blowing it using modest pressure is a great way to help equalize the pressure in your ears, allowing water to drain. Scuba divers and airline travelers frequently employ this trick.
  • The Vacuum Technique. Place the palm of your hand over your plugged-up ear and press down gently to create a suction effect. This should help loosen trapped water from your canals, allowing it to drain.
  • The Hairdryer Technique. Turn your hairdryer onto its lowest heat setting and aim it at your ears (from a safe distance). This will help dry out the water in your ear, allowing it to evaporate and drain.
  • The Pulling Technique. Try pulling on the outer portion of your ear by reaching around behind your head and giving it a good tug with your opposing hand. This straightens out your ear canal, giving trapped water a path in which to drain.
  • The Chew and Yawn Technique. Any movement of the mouth will help reduce pressure in the Eustachian tubes, freeing water that is trapped. Chewing gum and yawning are effective ways to accomplish this (though we’re betting you can’t do both at the same time).
  • The Chemical Technique. When all else fails, over-the-counter ear drops usually do a good job of removing moisture from your ears. Choose alcohol-based products for the best results.

To prevent water from getting into your ears in the first place, your American Fork audiologist recommends wearing swim plugs or a swim cap and drying your ears thoroughly after any contact with water. This includes the backyard slip ‘n slide! Still can’t get rid of excess water in your ear canals? Schedule an appointment with a Utah hearing specialist.

Goggles Could Help Diagnose Vertigo

An estimated 40 percent of people in American Fork will experience dizziness or imbalance at some point in their lifetime. Balance disorders became more common as we age, and vertigo – an extreme form of dizziness that produces a sensation of spinning or movement – is one of the most widely-reported. Vertigo can be difficult to diagnose, but a special pair of goggles may help improve the process.

What is Vertigo?

woman suffering from vertigo

Vertigo is a form of severe dizziness that causes imbalance, a spinning sensation, loss of coordination and nausea. It may be accompanied by headache, perspiration, vomiting, double vision, ringing in the ears or hearing loss. Because there are several different types of vertigo, each the result of a different condition, doctors often have trouble diagnosing it. A new study, published in the May 15, 2019 issue of the American Academy of Neurology’s online medical journal Neurology, offers hope that a special pair of goggles may be useful in diagnosing which type of vertigo a patient is experiencing.

Miriam S. Welgampola, MD, PhD, of the University of Sydney in Australia, says, “Vertigo can be a disabling condition, so an accurate diagnosis is important to effectively treat and stop the vertigo as soon as possible. Observing a person’s eye movements during an episode can help make the diagnosis, but people don’t always have an episode when they are at the doctor’s office.”

Dr. Welgampola is the author of the study and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. Her research group studied 117 people who had previously been diagnosed with one of three conditions that cause vertigo. 43 had Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder that affects hearing and balance; 67 had vestibular migraines that cause vertigo; and 7 had benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), a condition in which calcium crystals in the fluid of the inner ear cause vertigo in response to head movements. Each participant was provided with a pair of video-oculography goggles that record eye movements during episodes of vertigo and taught how to use them whenever they experienced vertigo.

Eye movements are repetitive and uncontrolled during episodes of vertigo; they can move from side to side, up and down or around in circles. The subjects with Meniere’s disease were most likely to experience fast horizontal eye movements, which the goggles diagnosed accurately with a sensitivity of 95 percent and a specificity of 82 percent. Sensitivity refers to the percentage of positives that are identified correctly and specificity indicates the percentage of negatives correctly identified.

Subjects with vestibular migraine experienced more variable eye movement patterns. Their specificity was 93 percent, but sensitivity was low – only 24 percent. Individuals with BPPV had a perfect 100 percent sensitivity and a 78 percent specificity.

What Does This Mean For Vertigo Sufferers?

The practical ramifications of this research won’t be realized until further studies incorporating larger sample sizes are completed. Additionally, the data wasn’t entirely accurate given that some of the subjects didn’t feel well enough to wear the goggles during vertigo episodes and others didn’t bother putting them on when experiencing mild cases of vertigo. It’s also possible that some of the medications patients were taking might have influenced eye movement. Despite this, researchers believe it won’t be too long before these goggles will help patients at home record eye movements to assist with a diagnosis and treatment.

If you or a loved one are experiencing episodes of vertigo, schedule an appointment with an American Fork specialist to rule out anything serious.

Surprising Risk Factors for Hearing Loss in Utah

About one in five residents of American Fork has hearing loss. Many can blame the usual suspects: advancing age, noise exposure or trauma. But there are other factors that can lead to hearing loss in Utah – and some of them are bound to surprise you.

Unexpected Causes of Hearing Impairment

woman trying to sleep with hearing loss

According to your American Fork audiologist, the following factors – while less common – can contribute to hearing loss.

  • Sleep Apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by relaxed tissue in the throat that blocks the airway, causing loud snoring and pauses in breathing that occur during sleep. This leads to a drop in oxygen levels and increases the chances of developing a number of serious health problems including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and hearing loss, the latter the result of reduced blood flow to the inner ear. The chronic snoring that accompanies sleep apnea can also contribute to irreversible damage of the hair cells in the cochlea that transmit sounds to the brain.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption. An occasional beer during a weekend barbecue is harmless enough, but when a couple of drinks turn into many, problems occur. Excess alcohol consumption increases your risk for many serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke. Too much alcohol also negatively affects your hearing when it damages the central auditory cortex of the brain, making it work harder to process and interpret sounds and affecting your ability to distinguish low-frequency noises. In addition, alcohol impedes balance, making you more prone to falling and suffering an injury.
  • Iron deficiency. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found a correlation between iron-deficient anemia and hearing loss while examining the medical records of more than 305,000 adults. Patients suffering from this blood disorder had double the risk of developing hearing loss compared to people without an iron deficiency. This illustrates the mineral’s importance in furnishing the hair cells of the cochlea with a healthy blood supply.
  • Mumps. Mumps cases are on the rise despite the decades-long availability of a vaccine. “Anti-vaxxers” opposed to immunizations are the reason behind the recent large jump in mumps cases across the U.S. People who contract the disease are susceptible to a number of serious health complications, including hearing loss. While it’s a fairly rare side effect of the disease (between one and four percent of people with mumps will develop hearing problems), it’s not worth the risk considering the safety and efficacy of a vaccine that has been protecting children from the virus since the 1960s. Check with your American Fork health professional for an immunization schedule for your child.
  • Stress. Chronic stress diverts oxygen to your muscles, preparing you to react quickly to imminent danger. The problem is, there is rarely an actual threat to your person, so the oxygen being redirected to your muscles from other key areas – such as the blood supply that feeds the inner ears – is doing much more harm than good. Over time, you may experience permanent damage to the hair cells of your cochlea, resulting in hearing loss.
  • Vaping. Vaping is seen as a healthier alternative to smoking by many, but the ingredients in e-cigarettes can cause damage, too. Nicotine restricts blood flow to the inner ear, depriving the hair cells of oxygen, and propylene glycol is an alcohol-based solvent that can damage hearing when used topically.
  • Erectile dysfunction drugs. Erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra contain PDE-5 inhibitors that improve blood flow. Though uncommon, one possible side effect is sudden sensorineural hearing loss, a condition that develops with little or no advance warning. EDs and some 200 other medications are considered ototoxic, meaning they can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss or tinnitus. Check with your doctor if you observe changes to your hearing soon after starting a new drug regimen.

Hearing loss as a side effect from any of the above is pretty uncommon but being informed can make the difference between successful early treatment and permanent impairment. For more information on factors that can cause hearing loss in American Fork, contact your audiologist today.

Hearing Loss Linked to Higher Drug & Alcohol Use

If you have hearing loss in American Fork – especially if you are younger than 50 – you’re twice as likely to misuse prescription opioids, according to a new national study. Your odds of abusing alcohol and other drugs are also higher. This makes early detection and treatment extremely important.

Hearing Loss & Substance Abuse

A beer being poured into a glass

“The marginalizing effects of hearing loss, such as social isolation, may be creating higher rates of substance use disorders,” warns Michael McKee, M.D. His words echo the findings of a study published in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, which collected data from 86,186 adults who responded to the University of Michigan and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Dr. McKee, lead researcher, had observed a disproportionate number of younger patients with hearing loss dealing with substance use disorders and wanted to know if there was a connection. He runs the Deaf Health Clinic, which provides primary care and mental health care to deaf and hearing-impaired patients of Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center. McKee was already keenly aware of the other detrimental effects of hearing loss, such as physical and mental health issues and an increased risk of pain disorders.

Results of the study showed that adults under the age of 50 with hearing loss were more likely than similarly-aged peers to suffer from a substance use disorder. Even accounting for differences in social, economic and mental health between the hearing and hearing-impaired populations, these differences remained. The difference was especially pronounced in adults under 35 with hearing loss; this group was 2 ½ times more likely to have a prescription opioid use disorder, while those between the ages of 35 and 49 with hearing loss were almost twice as likely as their peers with normal hearing to have disorders related to both prescription opioids and alcohol. Interestingly, those over 50 did not experience a higher rate of substance issues.

McKee believes part of the problem might stem from the need to address pain issues through the use of prescription opioids, the easiest solution when hearing loss presents communication barriers between doctors and patients. Another issue may be a lack of awareness by health care providers over the degree of hearing loss suffered by their younger patients. 5 percent of survey respondents reported serious hearing loss or deafness; this includes 1.5 percent under the age of 35, 2.2 percent aged 35-49, and 9.4 percent over 50.

Resolving this issue and helping to stem the tide of substance abuse requires providers approach all patients, regardless of age, without assumptions over their communication abilities. Each patient’s hearing loss and communication issues should be assessed on a case-by-case basis before determining a treatment solution.

Bottom line: it’s a slippery slope from hearing loss to substance use disorders, particularly if you are younger than the stereotypical hearing-impaired patient. If you or a loved one have any hearing concerns, scheduling an appointment with an American Fork audiologist is a great proactive step in ensuring continued long-term health.

Tinnitus: More Common Than You Think in Utah

If you frequently notice a ringing in your ears but don’t even own a bell, you are part of a not-so-select group of people suffering from tinnitus. How non-excusive is this? About one in every five people experiences tinnitus in American Fork. It’s widespread throughout the U.S. and other countries, making it one of the most common global health complaints.

Causes of Tinnitus

bells ringing

Some people refer to tinnitus as a medical condition, but it’s actually classified as a symptom and not a disease. It’s always related to another underlying condition or factor, which can make diagnosis and treatment tricky.

Common causes of tinnitus in Utah include:

  • Excessive noise exposure
  • Blockages of the ear canal (e.g., wax buildup, ear infection)
  • Medications that can damage the ears (aspirin, quinine and certain antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and chemotherapy drugs)
  • Natural aging
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Otosclerosis
  • Migraines
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
  • Head and neck injuries
  • Medical conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, circulation disorders, autoimmune diseases and diabetes

Tinnitus affects everybody differently. It doesn’t always present as a ringing in the ears; it may instead resemble a hissing, buzzing, roaring, whooshing or whistling. Some people experience tinnitus in American Fork constantly, to the point where it has a serious impact on their daily lives; others only notice it intermittently and are easily able to go about their normal routine. Side effects of tinnitus include poor sleep, anxiety, irritability, stress, fatigue and depression. There is no cure for tinnitus but treating the underlying condition responsible for producing symptoms will sometimes bring relief.

Treating Tinnitus

When it comes to treating tinnitus, your American Fork audiologist recommends management strategies designed to ease its burden on your everyday life. The most popular options include masking techniques that distract your brain from the ringing in your ears by “covering it up” with another sound, such as white noise. There are many smartphone apps that play different sounds, such as falling rain or ocean waves, as well as white noise, pink noise and brown noise, all of which target different frequencies to block out other sounds. If you’d rather save a few dollars, you can achieve the same effect by turning on an air conditioner, fan or humidifier. Tinnitus retraining therapy is similar but uses patterned musical tones delivered at specific frequencies to refocus your brain’s attention.

Other popular treatments in Utah include counseling, relaxation exercises and diet/lifestyle modifications. Take the latter with a grain of salt (or gingko biloba) as there are few scientific studies able to verify claims that supplements and natural therapies will actually make a difference. If you suffer from hearing loss, even hearing aids can help; simply turn up the volume to drown out the ringing in your ears.

If you’d like to explore treatment options for tinnitus in American Fork, schedule an appointment with an audiologist as soon as you can. Help is available!

Understanding Reverse-Slope Hearing Loss

If you’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss in American Fork, odds are good that you have the most difficulty understanding women’s and children’s voices. This is because most types of hearing loss affect high-frequency sounds. A rare condition called reverse-slope hearing loss made headlines recently when a woman from China – identified only as “Chen” – woke up one morning unable to hear her boyfriend’s voice. Reverse-slope hearing loss affects the lower frequencies instead.

What is Reverse-Slope Hearing Loss?

woman with reverse-slope hearing loss who cannot hear her boyfriend

Doctors in China explain that Chen went to bed feeling nauseous and experiencing tinnitus – a ringing in the ears. When she woke up, she was unable to understand male voices. Chen was consequently diagnosed with reverse-slope hearing loss, a condition so rare there have only been about 3,000 confirmed cases on the entire North American continent.

Chen’s diagnosis was newsworthy given the extremely rare nature of this type of hearing impairment. Rather than the usual difficulty with high-pitched sounds, reverse-slope hearing loss hampers your ability to hear low-pitched sounds. The fact that men usually have deeper voices than women explains why Chen could not hear her boyfriend. Other symptoms of reverse-slope hearing loss include difficulty understanding vowel sounds, which have more low-pitch energy than consonants, and contribute more to our sense of volume. Consonants are higher-pitched and more important to speech clarity.

Causes and Treatment

Reverse-slope hearing loss has three main causes:

  • Genetics. Certain genes have the ability to inhibit the development of hair cells in the cochlea that are responsible for pitch perception.
  • Meniere’s disease. This inner ear disorder, characterized by vertigo, fluctuating hearing loss and tinnitus, affects the fluid of the cochlea and can cause you to have difficulty understanding low-pitched sounds.
  • Sudden-onset conditions. As Chen experienced, sometimes hearing loss develops with little or no warning. This often occurs with reverse-slope hearing loss. Viral infections are sometimes responsible, but often the exact cause or condition is never clear.

If you are diagnosed with reverse-slope hearing loss, your treatment options are limited. When the condition is the result of genetics, nothing can be done to correct the loss. If the condition develops suddenly, steroid injections may be used to reverse the symptoms, though success with this treatment is mixed. Often, symptoms are permanent. Counseling and coping strategies may be your best bet for a better quality of life. Fortunately, as stated, reverse-slope hearing loss is extremely rare. You are far more likely to develop hearing loss that interferes with your ability to understand high-pitched sounds – a type of impairment that is successfully treated with hearing aids in most cases.

If you are showing any signs of hearing loss, contact your American Fork audiologist for a thorough evaluation.


The Sad Truth About Hearing Loss & Depression

About one out of every five people in American Fork has hearing loss. Along with difficulty communicating, these people are at risk for a number of associated medical problems if they do not take steps to treat their impairment. The correlation between hearing loss and a number of physical, social and psychological conditions is well-established; one of the most common in Utah is depression.

The Correlation Between Hearing Loss and Depression

Depressed woman

Hearing loss is a life-changing diagnosis for approximately 48 million Americans. New patients experience a variety of emotions including stress, anxiety, fatigue and social isolation, all of which are factors that can lead to depression. A study by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) showed that 11.4 percent of individuals with hearing loss suffered from depression, a significantly higher percentage than those with good (7.1 percent) or excellent (4.9 percent) hearing. Those most likely to experience depression were aged 18 to 69. The NIDCD study is hardly the only one to pinpoint this correlation; researchers in Italy and Australia have reported similar results.

Making matters worse is the fact that people with hearing loss in American Fork are likely to withdraw from social activities. Social isolation worsens depression, so this increases their risk. The key is recognizing the symptoms of depression early.

Depression often manifests itself with feelings of sadness and hopelessness, and while these are the most common outward signs, they aren’t the only ones. Less obvious symptoms include fatigue, irritability, a loss of appetite, concentration difficulties and loss of interest in activities and hobbies that usually bring joy. It often takes a close friend or family member to notice these types of behavioral changes.

Hearing Aids can Help Treat Depression

The earlier you receive treatment for hearing loss, the less likely you are to experience depression. Your American Fork audiologist believes the following signs, established by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, are useful in determining the possibility of hearing loss:

  • Difficulty understanding speech, especially in the presence of background noise.
  • The individual isolates him- or herself from social gatherings and public situations.
  • They watch television or listen to music at volume levels others find uncomfortable.
  • They often ask people to repeat themselves.

Any of these should prompt you to schedule a hearing evaluation with an American Fork audiologist as soon as possible.

If hearing loss is causing depression, treatment might be as simple as turning on your hearing aids. Researchers at the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics found that every patient they studied who wore hearing aids showed a significant decline in negative psychosocial and cognitive conditions within 90 days. To reduce your risk of depression, be sure to wear your hearing aids regularly. If you have avoided purchasing them for whatever reason, you are strongly urged to reconsider. Depression is a widespread ailment with serious consequences; avoiding it will only lead to worse health long-term.

How Do Kids Lose Their Hearing?

If you’re like most people, you probably associate hearing loss with old age. But seniors aren’t the only ones to suffer from impaired hearing; in fact, only about one-third of patients are older than 65. In reality, hearing loss affects people of all ages – even children. Nearly 15 percent of kids in American Fork have hearing loss, and that number continues to grow.

Consequences of Childhood Hearing Loss

Child's ear

Children with hearing loss in American Fork don’t just face the everyday challenges of others with hearing loss; they are at risk for delays in speech and language development and have an increased likelihood of social and behavioral problems as they age. Because of these problems, it’s important to recognize the signs of hearing loss in children as soon as possible. These include:

  • No reaction to loud noises
  • Failure to respond to your voice
  • Frequent ear infections
  • Delays in speech and language ability/limited vocabulary for age
  • Poor academic performance
  • Disorders often related to hearing loss (e.g., autism, Down syndrome)
  • Family history of hearing loss

But what causes hearing loss in American Fork children?

What Causes Children to Lose Their Hearing?

There are three main causes of hearing loss in children:

  • Congenital factors. Roughly 1-2 out of every 1,000 children are born with hearing loss in American Fork. Congenital factors such as genetic issues, prenatal problems and premature birth can all cause hearing damage.
  • Otitis media. Middle ear infections are very common in children and occur when fluid accumulates and cannot drain properly. Most ear infections clear up on their own or respond to treatment with antibiotics, but in severe cases they can cause hearing damage.
  • Acquired hearing loss. Many factors can cause children to lose their hearing. Illness, physical trauma and medications can all cause permanent hearing loss. The biggest problem is excessive noise exposure. Fortunately, this can be prevented.

Preventing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when noise in excess of 85 decibels for an extended period of time causes permanent damage to the hair cells of the inner ear. Many activities contribute to this type of hearing loss including sporting events, concerts, firearms and noisy vehicles such as dirt bikes and jet skis. Kids who listen to music at loud levels through headphones are especially at risk.

In order to prevent your child from developing hearing loss, stress the importance of wearing earplugs anytime they will be participating in an activity where noise is likely to be a factor and teach them to listen to music safely. This means keeping the volume level at about 60 percent of maximum and taking frequent listening breaks to give their ears a rest. You might have to do a little policing yourself; a good rule of thumb is, if you can hear the music when they’re using headphones, they need to turn down the volume!

Your American Fork audiologist can provide you with additional tips on preventing your kids from developing hearing loss.

Hearing Loss & Thanksgiving

Halloween is a distant memory now, its last visible signs the moldy pumpkin on your neighbor’s porch and the candy jar filled with Tootsie Rolls – always the last to go! Our attention turns to Thanksgiving instead. If you’re hosting the big feast this year, scoring a large enough turkey to feed a houseful of guests shouldn’t be the only thing on your mind if you’ll have somebody with hearing loss joining the festivities. You’ll need to think about preparing your home to ensure these guests have an enjoyable and stress-free holiday.

Gobble Up These Tips for an Inviting Home

felt turkeys decorated as pilgrims

About one in five people in American Fork have been diagnosed with hearing loss. For these individuals, the holidays can be a challenge. They often do not feel included in the festivities and may experience isolation, withdrawal, and depression. Taking a few simple steps will help your hearing-impaired guests have an enjoyable Turkey Day and give them plenty to be thankful for.

Take the following steps to make your home more inviting for guests with hearing loss:

  1. Set up your home to make it more accessible for the hearing-impaired. Provide adequate lighting to enable those guests with hearing loss who rely on facial cues to aid in communicating the ability to more easily see facial expressions and the mouths of people who are speaking. Give some thought to seating arrangements, as well; those with hearing loss will do best in a quiet corner away from the noise and distraction of the kitchen.
  2. Keep the music low. Soft music adds to the holiday ambience, but if it’s too noisy it can prove distracting to those with hearing loss. Keep this in mind if you’ve got your TV tuned to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or a football game, as well. And for crying out loud, save the holiday music for the next day. Nobody needs to hear “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” until the turkey and mashed potatoes are being configured into leftovers – even those with perfectly fine hearing!
  3. Include everybody in the conversation. Hearing-impaired guests may act quiet or appear uncomfortable. It’s not that they are antisocial; they may simply be feeling left out. Include them in the conversation as much as possible.
  4. Face the person when speaking. Many hard of hearing individuals rely on facial cues and/or lipreading in order to communicate. Face your hearing-impaired guest when speaking so they can understand your words more easily.
  5. Speak slowly and clearly. Do not mumble and resist the urge to shout. Stick to simple words and phrases delivered in a normal tone of voice. Make sure to avoid speaking while eating (rudeness alert!!) and do not cover your mouth with a napkin or your hands.
  6. Rephrase rather than repeat. If your hearing-impaired guest is having trouble understanding, you’ll be tempted to repeat yourself (and will probably raise your voice to overcompensate). Try rephrasing instead, using a different word that conveys the same meaning. Often, a particular vowel or consonant causes trouble.
  7. Don’t hold a conversation from far away. Remaining in close proximity when conversing with guests who are hard of hearing will ensure they understand what you are saying more easily and allows them to see your mouth and facial expressions.

These simple steps will help ensure a happy Thanksgiving for everybody gathered in your home for the holiday. For additional tips, contact your American Fork audiologist.