Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Before you know it, 2016 will be only a memory. If you have hearing loss or wear hearing aids, holidays and financial obligations can make year’s end a stressful time if you’re not prepared. And if you have any hopes of avoiding that last minute rush again this year, now is the time to take action. So, while you’re figuring out what to serve for Thanksgiving and where you’re going to fit an extra inflatable mattress when your niece decides she wants to crash at your (already full) house, don’t forget to think about hearing health, too. Advance preparation now can lead to more serenity when you need it the most.
Plan for more enjoyable holidays
Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah
Even if no one in your family has hearing loss, making a communication plan for those chaotic holiday gatherings may provide a more enjoyable experience for everyone. If you are hosting dinner, implement these hearing-friendly ideas:
- Create different listening environments. The kids play together in one room, while adults listen to the ball game in another. When it’s time to gather at the table, turn off the music and the television so you can focus on the conversation.
- Assign seats. If someone on your guest list has hearing loss, they’ll enjoy the conversation at the table much more if they’re seated where they can see everyone’s faces. Ask them where they’d like to sit. If they have a “better ear,” it may dictate where the best seat at the table is for them.
- Don’t dim the lights. Many people with hearing loss rely on good lighting to read lips and take advantage of visual cues during group conversations — whether or not they wear hearing devices.
- Delay clean up. Clinking, clanging dishes make it difficult to hear the conversation and take you away from your guests. Try waiting until everyone has left to clean the dishes.
- Advocate for yourself. If you have hearing loss and are attending a family gathering, don’t be afraid to politely speak up if the television’s volume is interfering with your ability to participate in dinnertime conversation or if you need closed captioning turned on during the big game. If you’re comfortable, share your concerns privately with your host or hostess before the event begins. It never hurts to have others advocating for you, too.
New Years Eve
There’s no better way to welcome in a fresh beginning — or give a particularly trying year the boot — than with a party. Here are a few suggestions for making the gathering more hearing friendly:
- Pass on the noisemakers. One of the most common forms of hearing loss is caused by noise — whether from consistent exposure or a one-time exposure to loud noise. New Year’s noisemakers can contribute to permanent hearing damage because of the level of sound they emit. Opt instead for confetti or silly string.
- Watch the volume. Whether you’re attending a party or hosting one, be mindful of the level of sound coming from those speakers. If you can’t hear the person speak who’s standing next to you, the music is too loud.
- Buddy up. If you have hearing loss, find someone willing to help you navigate the conversation, whether you’re standing in a group of friends or sitting at the dinner table. If you’re the host and have invited a friend or family member with hearing loss, ask a mutual friend in attendance to check in with them at different intervals during the evening.
Tax and financial tips
FSA and budgets
If you’ve invested in a flexible savings account (FSA) with your employer, check with the plan administrator to see exactly how much is left in your account, if there are funds eligible to roll over to next year and the last day you can use the money without penalty.
Depending on what you discover, now may be the time to have that hearing evaluation you’ve been putting off, upgrade your hearing aids or purchase an assistive listening device — all of which are acceptable reimbursements under most FSA plans.
And, while you’re checking with the plan administrator, make sure you know when enrollment is for next year and if there are any proposed changes to the plan. If the $2,500 limit wasn’t enough to cover out-of-pocket health costs this year, now is a good time to decide how you want to budget for the shortfall.
Does your family make a habit of donating to a charity during the holidays? Can we make a case for hearing health charities? Whether you choose to donate to a national or local organization, have a passion for children or funding hearing dog training, you can most likely find a hearing foundation or charity that would greatly appreciate your donation.
Check our list of suggestions and do your own research. Tackling this project now means you’ll have more time on your hands at the end of the year to sneak in an extra kiss or two under the mistletoe.
If you gave too much money to Uncle Sam last year because you didn’t leave yourself enough time to dig up all those healthcare receipts, now is the time to start organizing . Although the thought of itemizing can be intimidating, it can also be cost effective depending upon the amount of money you spent on healthcare this year — and whether or not you kept the receipts. Hearing loss is a medical condition, and hearing aids are medical devices regulated by the FDA that can be tax deductible if you itemize. Start digging out those receipts — and make a better organizational plan for next year.
Of course, we can’t let the year end without encouraging you to make hearing health a priority for you and your family starting now. If you have concerns about your hearing and are looking for a hearing healthcare professional in your community, visit our extensive, consumer-reviewed directory of professionals.