Here we are, knee deep in the Holiday Season, and that means plenty of family gatherings.

We’re entrenched in the routine of arriving with gifts in hand, food in baskets … it’s tradition, right? The holiday music is on (Alexa, play Michael Buble), the football games are non-stop on the TV, and the kids are setting up a marathon game of the new Millennial Monopoly  (thankfully unplugged from their technology and damaging earbuds).

Do we stop to notice if any member of our family might be isolating themselves?  Are they sitting off to the side, not engaging in the board games or the general chatter around the room?

We shrug it off, thinking maybe they’re in need of space or just looking for quiet time. There’s dad … just being cranky. He stares back into the action and only speaks to someone when they are right next to him.

This is a classic symptom and reaction to hearing loss.

Your mom or dad may be separating themselves from the overall din because they can’t clearly hear conversations over the noise in the room. Gatherings becomes a wall of sound and they can’t differentiate one voice form another. Hearing loss can be maddening and frustrating, so people sometimes isolate themselves. This is the beginning of a chain of events that can create a downward decline for everyone involved.

Isolation from loved ones can lead to depression. Family members tend to distill this behavior down to overall low moods from aches and pains, and yet never think to check their parent, child, or spouse for hearing loss.

Studies by the American Academy of Audiology make this definitive link between mood and hearing loss:
https://www.audiology.org/publications-resources/document-library/untreated-hearing-loss-linked-depression-social-isolation

Unfortunately, the males in our families are the hardest to convince that they may need help with their hearing …yes, ask mom how many times a day she hears “What?” from your dad who’s next to the blaring TV. 

This year make it a point to stroll around the family gatherings, take inventory of who’s sitting off on their own, who turns their head to the side (their good ear) to listen to you. Watch for young ones scratching at their ears, playing alone, or covering their ears; because hearing loss isn’t an age specific problem, it can affect any member of the family. Make a note and speak to them or another family member to discuss a trip to an audiologist … just to be sure.

As you open presents and break bread this Holiday Season, keep in mind that kindness and attention could be the best gift you give this year.