Choosing the right holiday gifts can be a challenge. A sweater? (Again!) Chocolates or homemade cookies? (Oops, she’s on a diet.) Tickets to a Broadway show? (What if he hates musicals)? A beautiful scarf? (Maybe beautiful in your eyes but not necessarily in hers).
If your loved one is hard of hearing, this is one time of year when you’re in luck. There are dozens of items that a person with hearing loss might like – and even use. Your friend or relative may not have heard of the item before the big unwrap, but chances are he or she will be surprised to find how useful it is.
Here are some suggestions, ranging in price from about $15 to many hundreds. I’ve included links to online sales but you can also get some of these at a local hearing center or at a big box store.
At the top of my list is the Hear the World Foundation 2016 calendar, featuring glamorous hard-of-hearing Foundation Ambassadors like Tina Turner in gorgeous black and white portraits by Bryan Adams. Nobody’s reluctant to acknowledge hearing loss in this crowd. (Hear the World is a Sonovafoundation). The calendar is $40 and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Foundation, which provides hearing aids in impoverished areas.
One of the unexpected complications of hearing loss is waking yourself up in the morning. When I take out my hearing aid and cochlear implant I can’t hear an alarm. Fortunately there are solutions for both your bedside table and for traveling.
For the bedside table, there are several brands and types of alarm clocks that wake you with a simulated sunrise. The major manufacturer is BioBrite, which makes many variations on the SunRise, including one with soothing sounds to help you fall asleep and a clock radio for waking up. Neither of these is especially useful to the hard of hearing. The basic SunRise clock — no sound — is $119. 95. I have one and can vouch for it.
On the road you might want to take a vibrating alarm clock. Again there are different brands. Some shake the whole bed, which your sleeping companion may object to. The Shake-N-Wake has a wrist band. I found it confusing to set but once set it worked. $16.95.
After I left the Shake-N-Wake under a hotel pillow I decided to try the Shake Awake vibrating alarm, made by TimeVision $17.95. It’s smaller than the Shake-N-Wake with no wrist band, but it’s much easier to set. Unfortunately, if you want to turn it off in the morning you have to flip a tiny dial behind the battery door. If you just hit “snooze” it’ll keep going off periodically until it’s finally woken up not only you but your sleeping partner. (All the more reason to respond the first time and get up.)
Hearing aid jewelry. I wrote about Hailey’s Cherished Charms in an April post on hearing-aid chic. Teenager Hailey Rachel Scott, deaf from birth, started her own company and sells hearing aid charms and drop earrings online.
A gift certificate to your favorite local lecture space that has assistive listening devices. A loop is the gold standard but Infrared or FM devices can also be good. Here’s a list of looped venues in New York, assembled by the New York chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America.
Along the same line, a gift certificate to the AMC or Regal cinema chains, which offer captions. Some other movie chains do too, and soon all will. But for now make sure the theater actually has the captioning devices.
Membership in a hearing friendly museum. In New York, the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney all have listening devices for self-guided tours, and at the ticket and information booths.
Books! As I wrote in a guest post for my fellow blogger Gael Hannan last week, for friends with hearing loss, I recommend a gift that requires no hearing at all. Nothing like a book as a welcome respite after a round of gala and NOISY holiday events. The post suggests a number of books on hearing loss, with brief descriptions, including books by myself and by host blogger Gael Hannan.
Here’s another kind of book suggestion. Give your loved one a book you think he or she will like – along with an audio version of the same book. One of the very best ways to practice listening better is to read along with an audio book, weaning yourself off the print version as you get more and more skilled with the audio. Kindle (an Amazon company) makes this especially simple with its Whispersync for Voice-ready feature. The e-book and audio book remain synced at whatever page you last stopped on, on either device.
A gift membership to the Hearing Loss Association of America, including the location and meeting times of the local chapter. If your area has a chapter of the Association of Late-Deafened Adults, ALDA, a membership will connect your friend to another good local education and support group.
Games: Brain games and hearing games cover much the same territory and are good for cognitive health. ReadMyQuips is intended especially for those with hearing loss. Elevate, Luminosity, Cogmed,BrainHQ and the like won’t make you smarter (see this article from Scientific American), but they will keep your brain active. Since people with hearing loss tend to isolate themselves, this kind of cognitive stimulation can be especially important.
Finally, technology. I’m going to stick to one small area because covering the whole field would take a book. One of the most frustrating things for people with hearing loss is hearing the TV. You can use captions, but they are often incorrect or slow, and they do require reading while you’re watching, which many people don’t want to do. Here are three kinds of TV sound enhancers.
Serene Innovations TV Soundbox Listening Speaker, $149.95, is a very simple-to-use way of making the sound clearer to everyone in the room, without blasting the volume. The device is a portable wireless speaker that can even be used in another room.
TV Ears ($59,95 to $199.95) and wireless headphones ($75 and up into the three figures). TV Ears is a brand name but wireless headphones intended for watching TV are made by a variety of manufacturers. The listener wears a pair of headphones that rest on the wireless transmitter when they’re not being used. Each user needs his or her own set of headphones. (Some of these can also be used in Broadway theaters.)
A chair audio loop ($200 and up). For people with hearing aids with telecoils, this small, easily installed induction loop transmits the sound from the television directly into the hearing aid or cochlear implant. It can also be connected to other sound sources.
It’s early in the holiday season as yet and this list is far from complete. So please make your own suggestions in the comments section.