New Year’s Resolution: Understanding Hearing Loss

During the holiday season, a great gift we can give family members and a useful resolution is to work toward understanding others more.

Adult puts a blue hearing aid on a young girl.
Children with hearing loss have fewer strategies for adapting and benefit from creative solutions. photo credit: bundesinnung_ha Kind, Hinter-Ohr-Gerät-Anpassung. Copyright: biha, 2015 via photopin (license)

When many families gather, members with hearing loss often feel left out or misunderstood, because their families don’t understand them and family members don’t have strategies to adapt to their hearing loss. Often, the person with hearing loss undertakes the responsibility for communication, but it’s overwhelming and sometimes impossible to do.

Around 38 million Americans have hearing loss, an estimated 13 percent of the general population. For those 65 and older, one in three Americans say they have some hearing loss.

Elder man holds hand up to hear as if he can't hear well.
One in three American seniors has hearing loss. photo credit: bundesinnung_ha Mann, Hören. Copyright: biha, 2015 via photopin (license)

One of the greatest challenges for a person with hearing loss is when family, friends, co-workers
and others don’t understand how hearing loss affects them. You may have seen comic routines where someone yells at a person with deafness, as if that strategy would work. Making something louder doesn’t make it clearer.

When someone has reduced hearing, a portion of the ear isn’t functioning. Different parts of the ear may be affected and in some cases, fluid in the ear may further complicate hearing. If they can hear something, what they hear is often distorted.

Woman sits in front of a computer with a chart showing a hearing range for a man sitting at her desk.
An audiologist shows a patient his hearing ranges on an audiogram. photo credit: bundesinnung_ha Hörgeräteakustikerin und Mann, Beratung. Copyright: biha, 2015 via photopin (license)

Hearing also comes in ranges, and when part of the ear doesn’t function properly, a person with hearing loss may not hear some high or low sounds. The pronunciation of many consonants, such as the letters h, s, f, and more, are in common ranges of hearing loss. A person with hearing loss may hear them sometimes or not at all.

One way to understand hearing loss better is to use hearing loss simulators. Here are two:
Hearing Loss Simulator

Starkey hearing loss simulator

Many people with hearing loss also have tinnitus, which can sound like static, droning, crickets, birds, and other sounds. Tinnitus may occur every day, all day long, and people who have it may develop a way to ignore it most of the time.

Having the sounds of tinnitus coming from the ear at the same time as other sounds weakens a person’s ability to hear clearly.

Tinnitus can get so disruptive that a person can’t sleep or concentrate.

Try the simulator below to experience 11 ways tinnitus can sound.

Tinnitus Simulator

Understanding how hearing loss interferes with communication helps you to develop strategies to make your communication clearer for those who aren’t hearing you accurately, such as:

  • speaking at a relaxed pace,
  • pronouncing words precisely, and
  • using different words with the same meaning when a word isn’t clear.

Have a Happy Deaf Christmas!

As the world comes together with technology, we see more evidence of people embracing sign language for the holidays. Share the love in sign!

Gold and pearl heart ornament hangs on a Christmas tree with white lights in background.
May your holiday season be accessible and bright! photo credit: judy dean Golden heart via photopin (license)

Pope Francis signs Christmas wishes for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. In the video, Pope Francis “asks people to pray for him and offers God’s blessing for Christmas.”

Watch a hearing child, Claire Koch, sign a Christmas concert for her Deaf parents.

Learn more about Claire here.

Shaylee Mansfield signs “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” in American Sign Language, ASL.

One child statue holds another in the snow. Words read Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Children help make our holidays shine. Follow their example of sharing joy! photo credit: Giuseppe Milo ( Merry Christmas and happy new year! via photopin (license)

Learn Christmas ASL vocabulary words to use this holiday season!
Part I
Part 2

Deaf Christmas Eve worship service at Woodhaven Baptist Church in Houston is Saturday, Dec. 24 at 6 p.m.

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year 2017 words over picture of Christmas tree and big red ornament.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2017 from the Sign Shares’ team! photo credit: iainmerchant Merry Xmas via photopin (license)

Making the Holidays Inclusive for People Who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing

Happy Holidays over fuzzy colored lightsWhen psychologist Linda Twilling, Ph.D. asks many patients who are Deaf and come from hearing families about the holidays, she says they respond with a single sign: “Horrible.”

Black and white picture: girl sits alone under a sign that is probably in Russian.
For many people, Christmas can be a lonely and challenging time when family language doesn’t make sense. photo credit: Thomas Leuthard Sofia via photopin (license)

Twilling says that some patients who are Deaf complain about missing out on long family jokes and incomplete translations of important family speech.

“Other Deaf people tell me another story of hope and disappointment. These Deaf people decide to avoid the holiday dinner with their hearing families, because of past isolation. Instead, they join friends for dinner or stay home to watch a movie,” she says. But they are still disappointed and miss family.

Whether you are hearing and wanting to include family and friends who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, or if you are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, here are some ways to make the holidays brighter with better communication access.

Strategies for an Inclusive Christmas

The women communicate in bright lightning. One is wearing a string of lights and a Santa hat.
Bright lighting helps people to see your facial expressions, signs, and to read lips. photo credit: Paulisson Miura Happy Xmas 2013 via photopin (license)

Plan ahead. The Limping Chicken’s editor, Charlie Swinbourne, provides “12 tips to ensure deaf people aren’t left out at Christmas.” His tips include making visual holiday communications, such as phone calls using Skype, and playing games that provide some time for heavy communication breaks that give family and friends a break from having to decipher what everyone says.

Darth Vader Lego figure holds a teddy bear and says to a shorter Darth Vader kid figure, "I am your father."
Charlie Swinbourne recommends using captioned movies. All TVs since the 1990’s have captioning available. photo credit: black.zack00 I am your father via photopin (license)
Woman sits on floor in front of a bright Christmas tree.
Provide quiet times so that your family member or friend can rest their mind from translating what everyone says. photo credit: Benjamin Disinger Mom via photopin (license)

Learn some holiday sign language. The Huffington Post shares Holiday Signs with interpreter Lydia Callis.

Study some American Sign Language, or ASL: ASL Lesson 1 with Dr. Bill Vickers.

Here is a another popular beginning ASL lesson on You Tube.

You can follow lesson 1 with 100 basic ASL signs.

Share a holiday story in American Sign Language, like “The Night Before Christmas.”

Blurry star Christmas lights.
Make sure holiday goings include everyone, especially when music is involved, by attending signed or captioned events, or by providing lyrics or translations. photo credit: mag3737 Lights of Hope via photopin (license)

Visit accessible events with your family members and friends who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, such as the Houston McCoy Christmas display house that shows captions for the song lyrics, attend movies that have captions (use Captionfish to let you know), and attend accessible church services, such as those at Woodhaven Baptist Church in Houston—where ASL is the main language and voice interpreters are used for those don’t sign.

If possible, attend Deaf social events with family members or friends.

Twilling says that one family hired an interpreter for their son for holiday, causing him to say his holiday was “great.”

See Santa surprise a young girl by using British sign language with her.

Person's hand showing the sign for I love you.
If you know sign language, share it with family and friends. photo credit: purprin I love You via photopin (license)

If you are Deaf, you can have fun with sign and teach the family a Christmas carol in ASL, “All I Really Want for Christmas.”

Young woman smiles with joy.
There’s nothing like the smile of someone who feels accepted. photo credit: ninabaumann saltum 15 via photopin (license)

One example Twilling gives about a patient who said they had a great holiday was to invite a friend who was also Deaf.

“With two Deaf people at the vacation home, it was obvious that group communication needed to include them. Although this woman commonly functions by speaking and speech reading within her family, they made the effort to communicate more visually, and include her and her friend in planning and conversations,” Twilling says.

Sign Shares Holiday Party 2016

Sign Shares had its annual holiday party on Saturday, Dec. 10 at Massa’s South Coast Grill in Houston.

Joe Massa and the South Coast Grill team provided fabulous food and hospitality as consumers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, and Sign Shares’ staff and interpreters gathered to have a hilarious time.

Sign Shares' Kathy Fritsche wears a green sweater with attached ornaments and tinsel.
Kathy won the ugly sweater contest with win her spin on holiday threads.

One of the evening’s highlights was the Ugly Sweater contest, which was voted on by party goers and was won by Kathy Fritsche, who wore a green, hand-decorated tinsel and ornament sweater. Other sweaters ran from silly to adorable and Mrs. Claus appeared!

Teams competed in the challenging Snowball (marshmallow) toss, where team members tried without much success at times to catch marshmallows by mouth.

Men and women in holiday sweaters pose in front of a lit Christmas tree inside a restaurant.
Sign Shares’ Executive Assistant, Anthony Butkovich, and CEO, Eva Storey, pose with Deaf community members and advocates Darla, Robert, and Nancy.

See pictures of the event on our FaceBook page . . . share more with us if you have them!

This was a great night of the Sign Shares team and community just enjoying ourselves!

Computer screen and projected image of a crackling fireplace fire.
Nothing like a portable fireplace for parties and bright holidays!

Happy Holidays 2016 style from the Sign Shares’ Team! Love & Blue Light!