Andy Winter talks to us about his dad’s hearing loss, how it has affected their family and what they are doing at Christmas to make sure everyone is involved.
I’m Andy, I live in a small market town in Leicestershire, with my daughter and wife Aimee. We have family nearby on Aimee’s side, but I hail from the Northwest, Stockport to be precise and that is where my parents still reside. Family is so important to me, especially now that we have a young daughter. In normal times, we would regularly make the three-hour journey over to see my parents so they could spend time with their granddaughter. Of course, 2020 was far from normal and we were no longer able to make those regular trips to be together.
The importance of being together
Being together in person is especially important for my dad, he has significant hearing loss in both ears and suffers with tinnitus, both factors are only getting worse as time goes by. He finds video calls challenging, frustrating and completely ineffective, he cannot hear or communicate that way at all. We have tried all manner of equipment to help, and it just doesn’t work for him. Being unable to properly speak with my dad on the phone made the distance between us feel all the greater during lockdown.
Like many, we were given hope by the announcement of a temporary easing of lockdown restrictions over the Christmas period last year. We were all excited by the prospect of finally getting to spend some time together. My mum and dad could spend Christmas morning with their granddaughter, we could finally make up for lost time, and I would be able to catch up with my dad properly.
The Christmas dinner game
My wife and I were eager to make this Christmas extra special and inclusive for my dad. We saw that the RNID had created a Christmas dinner game to promote deaf awareness at the dinner table. I loved this idea and quickly ordered a copy. I always remember Christmas Dinner as a kid being hilarious, mostly because of my dad. He was a complete wind-up merchant, telling jokes and tall tales, he was the heart and soul of the dinner table. However, as his hearing deteriorated, and his tinnitus got worse he got quieter at dinner times. He would make excuses to keep himself busy and away from the table. He’d hide in the kitchen more and more, always first up to wash up, always seeming to want to get away.
A few years ago, I took the time to talk to dad about this and he admitted, he can’t hear what anyone is saying, and dinner time had become a source of misery for him. He said he was exhausted, he just couldn’t keep up, he felt left out and isolated, so keeping busy away from the table was his coping strategy. This broke my heart, I miss my dad’s stories and wind ups, Christmas dinner isn’t the same without him. I realised I had a responsibility myself to include him in future. For this reason, I really looked forward to including the RNID Christmas dinner game at our table last year to help promote deaf awareness whilst also having some much-needed fun. Of course, as we now know, the temporary easing of restrictions was not meant to be, and much to our disappointment, we did not get to spend last Christmas together.
Making up for lost time
This year however, I am hopeful that we can make up for lost time and we plan to play the RNID Christmas dinner game, together as a family. I’ll be ensuring I will do my bit to make sure dad is included, maintaining eye contact, not covering my mouth when talking and following dad’s number one rule…if asked to repeat yourself, never say it doesn’t matter, it matters, repeat yourself until you are understood.
I know that our experience is not unique, many families can no doubt relate to our situation and to you I hope you have a wonderful inclusive Christmas with the ones you love.