This is a post from the “Sound Advice” series by Ruth Bernstein

The 2012 holiday season is here! The city sparkles, the stores are beautifully decorated, there are elegant Christmas trees around town and a giant size Menorah near the Plaza Hotel. The streets are crowded with people and traffic, and it seems like the city’s usual noise level has gone up by many decibels. Although it is a very special time, for those of us with hearing loss, the holidays can be a challenge because we are confronted with many situations that make hearing difficult.

The most challenging situations come at parties because it is hard to understand when a lot of people are talking at the same time. How can we hear and enjoy ourselves? The best way is to be proactive. I recommend reading Arlene Romoff’s article about coping with hearing loss at holiday time: Holiday Madness.

In addition to Ms. Romoff’s useful suggestions, take extra batteries for your hearing aids, CIs and assistive devices when you go out. There is nothing as frustrating as being confronted with a dead battery in the middle of a conversation.

Shopping for gifts is less of a hearing challenge because we can go online and find interesting presents. I like to shop at museums and holiday markets where I can speak with sales people in a quieter environment. If I’m lucky, the creator of the item I like will be the salesperson and I can learn how the gift was made. When you visit the indoor holiday market at Grand Central, see the model trains at the MTA Museum near the Station Master’s Office.

To refresh my visual soul and give my ears and brain a rest from listening, I like to visit museums. My recommendation this year includes Matisse at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Met’s very special Christmas tree and Neapolitan Baroque Creche and visit the model of the entrance to the Met created by the museum’s pastry chefs outside the cafeteria in the basement (photo). The Met, the Morgan and the Frick have excellent small drawing exhibitions. Check individual museum web sites for information on hearing accessible programs.

Going  to the movies is easier now because new captioning technology is being introduced. Foreign movies with English subtitles are also a good alternative. Listings for captioned and subtitled films at theaters can be found at www.captionfish.com and ncam.wgbh.org/mopix.

Watching captioned movies at home is fun on free and premium TV stations. You can also borrow free captioned movies from your local library. Look for the letters CC in TV listings or for those letters and/or a small television screen in the film description.

Many venues now have audio loops which allow people with t-switches in their hearing aids to hear without using head phones or neck loops.

The Theater Access Project of the Theater Development Fund (TDF/TAP) offers captioned theater on and off Broadway year-round. Recently, there was a captioned performance of the Christmas Show at Radio City. Learn more about the shows being offered. TDF/TAP will send you announcements of upcoming performances. Book your tickets as soon as possible because otherwise you may be shut out, especially if it is popular show like The Lion King.

My favorite quiet activity is reading. I recently saw Lincoln which inspired me to read Doris Kearn Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln on which the movie script is based. Instead of carrying the 900+ page book with me, I downloaded it onto my smartphone and can read it whenever I have a few minutes.

Using a smart phone to call, text or email helps lessen the anxiety of keeping in touch with family and friends while you enjoy holiday activities.

We are always interested in coping ideas and new venues, so please email me c/o the Center for Hearing and Communication. Thank you and have a happy holiday season and a healthy and peaceful 2013.

Ruth Bernstein
Consumer Advocate