The holidays are upon us, and many of us are looking forward to going to parties and getting together with extended family. Some enjoy the frenetic pace of family gatherings, shopping, cooking and travel, and don’t even mind that some radio stations started playing Christmas music in October. But for others, the holiday season brings a sense of isolation and loneliness. Those with hearing loss, especially, are at greater risk for the “holiday blues.”
Holiday bluesStudies have linked untreated hearing loss to loneliness, stress and depression, feelings which intensify during the holiday season. If you have hearing loss, you may find holiday gatherings difficult due to the frustration of trying to participate in conversations. You might even avoid parties and gatherings. Unfortunately, avoiding holiday gatherings altogether just leads to further loneliness, isolation and depression — and the cycle continues.Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D., the executive director of the Better Hearing Institute, explains the dichotomy of the festive holiday season against a backdrop of hearing loss: “The holiday season is meant to be a time of thanks, celebration and joy,” he said. “But for many people, it is a time of year when unaddressed hearing loss can cause them to feel particularly isolated and depressed. Even when surrounded by loved ones, a family member’s impaired ability to hear and actively participate in conversation cuts them off. Oftentimes, they are left with a sense of sadness, inadequacy and emotional isolation. This is especially true when the hearing loss is either unrecognized or is being ‘hidden’ by the family member with hearing loss.”
Get back into the festive spiritJust because you have hearing loss doesn’t mean the holidays have to be stressful and depressing. There are steps you can take to have a joyful season and be able to participate in the festivities.
- Don’t let another year of struggling to hear go by. See a hearing care professional to get a hearing screening and treatment.
- Speak up. Let friends and family know you have hearing loss so they can accommodate your hearing needs. Most people are quite happy to help by facing you when speaking, speaking clearly and distinctly and repeating things if necessary.
- Connect. Loneliness and isolation are associated with depression, as is hearing loss. Don’t avoid parties and gatherings; make plans to attend holiday gatherings or get together with friends.
- Volunteer. There are many charitable organizations looking for help this time of year. Volunteering can not only take your mind off your troubles, it can make you feel more socially connected. This might help reduce loneliness and depression. Visit a nursing home, work at a soup kitchen, help out at a toy donation program or wrap gifts for charity. Any time you give in service to others will lift your mood.
- Embrace past traditions. What did you used to love to do? A walk in the crisp winter air, baking cookies, making handmade ornaments, singing favorite songs or resurrecting a traditional family recipe can help connect you to past experiences and bring back the joy of the season.
- Recharge. Even with hearing aids, your hearing still might not be 100 percent. Trying to listen to conversations in background noise of holiday parties can be tiring, so be sure to get some downtime and plenty of rest.
- Talk about it. Give family and friends the opportunity to support you by letting them know what you are going through.