Hearing Loss and The Holidays: Tips for Hearing Loss at Gatherings and Parties
The holidays can be a busy and stressful time, and perhaps even more stressful for people who are hard of hearing.
With the holidays comes opportunities for socialization like work holiday parties, family dinners, friendly get-togethers, and of course, there’s always excited children on Christmas morning!
These situations can make it hard to hear what your loved ones around you are saying.
Today, we will share some helpful tips with you to use as a listener or a speaker to make the holiday season easier on individuals with hearing loss.
What individuals with hearing loss can do to make communicating during the holidays easier
Hearing loss and the holidays can be a complex combination...but we hope you’ll have a stress-free holiday experience with these tips.
Relearn old tricks
If you find yourself in a challenging listening situation, remember to:
- Pay attention and practice active listening
- Avoid pretending that you understood - you’ll only be more confused later on
- Make sure you can see the speaker’s face and ask them to look at you when they speak
- Avoid talking from room to room - talking at a reduced distance of 3-6 feet is best
- Wait a short while before asking them to repeat as you might just need a moment to process each sentence
- Ask your speaker to pause between sentences
Create a comfortable listening environment
If you’re attending a holiday party, consider positioning yourself in a comfortable listening environment. You can create the optimum listening environment by:
- Reducing background noise
- Avoiding rooms with hard surfaces or echos
- Reducing the amount of visual noise like movement in the background
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
When socializing this holiday season, try to avoid using terms like huh, what, or I didn’t hear you. Instead, stick to using something like, “I didn’t understand what you said because…” and let them know why you couldn't quite understand them.
If you let them know where the communication breakdown occurred, they might be able to make the listening situation easier so you can continue to have a conversation in a more comfortable environment.
Asking for help is essential for surviving the holiday season. Don’t be afraid to ask your speakers to:
- Repeat what they’ve said
- Rephrase things
- Clarify sentences
It’s also important to let your family, friends, and even your co-workers know that they need to grab your attention first before talking to you.
What speakers can do to make the holidays easier on individuals with hearing loss
Your friends and family who are hard of hearing might be struggling to communicate during the busy holiday season. Here are some ways you can help make their listening experience a whole lot easier.
Make sure they can see you clearly
Being able to clearly see your face will make it easier for your listening partner to understand you. So when you’re talking with them or speaking in a group, don’t forget to face the person with hearing loss so they can see your face as you talk.
You should also make sure the lighting is in front of you when you’re talking. This lets anybody with a hearing loss observe your facial expressions, gestures, lip movements, and body language.
Make it easier to be understood
If possible, turn off or turn down background noise such as music or the television during your conversations with your listening partner and avoid speaking with your mouth full or while covering your mouth—unless you are wearing a mask.
When speaking, try to increase the volume of your voice without shouting. Shouting obscures your speech and can actually make it harder to be understood.
Using shorter, straightforward sentences is also a great way to help your listening partner understand what you’re saying.
If you’re engaging with them during a social gathering or at a restaurant, it’s a good idea to sit away from crowded or noisy areas such as the kitchen or bar.
Tips to help individuals with hearing loss at home during the holidays
If you’re heading home for the holidays and want to have a meaningful conversation with your loved ones, then it’s a good idea to get rid of all or as much of the background noise in the home as possible.
This includes the following:
- Running water
- Washing machine
Don’t try to clean up after dinner and have a conversation simultaneously. Instead, do the dishes together, and then have a meaningful conversation afterwards.
- Talk face-to-face
- Don’t talk from room-to-room
- Make an effort to actively listen
- Reduce the distance between you and the speaker
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Dining out over the holidays with hearing loss
The sounds of people talking, taking orders, chefs cooking, and even the sound of the busy streets outside can make it difficult for people to understand what you’re saying.
Having a conversation in a restaurant requires a lot of active listening and effort on the listener’s part, but there’s also a lot the speaker can do to make it easier.
Here are some tips for making dining out over the holidays easier for people with hearing loss.
What you can do as a listener
- Plan ahead and know what’s on the menu, this will make it easier to order your food from the waiter (have a backup plan too, just in case they’re out of what you want)
- Pay attention to visual cues to make your listening situation easier
- Follow one conversation at a time, don’t spread yourself too thin, and sit next to the person you want to talk to the most. Paying attention to one conversation will also help your brain filter out background noise
What you can do as a speaker
Try to give the person who’s hard of hearing the seat at the table that sets them up for listening success.
If you’re dining in a group, try to keep the small, side conversations to a minimum and check back with the listener to see if they need any clarification.
Here are a few other things you can do to help the listener:
- Avoid speaking with your mouth covered
- Discuss the menu beforehand to help them order if they need it
- Avoid quick topic changes and alert the listener if you do change topics
Consider taking an after dinner walk
If you found that the noise levels inside were too high to have an enjoyable conversation, don’t be scared to invite your friend or relative outside after dinner to continue the conversation.
The noise levels outside should be much lower, so you’ll be able to enjoy the conversation with a lot less effort.
Offering to give somebody a ride to the event, or getting a ride with somebody, is also a great way to get some one-on-one conversation.
Don’t forget about virtual gatherings!
If the pandemic has shown us one thing, it’s that technology can help us connect with loved ones in a more accessible way than ever before.
You can use software like Zoom, Google Meet, Facebook video chat, FaceTime, and so many others to talk with your relatives and friends.
Many software like Zoom and Google Meet also offer real-time captioning, making it even easier to communicate.
We hope we’ve helped you feel more prepared for your holiday gathering this year. If you have any questions about how you can hear better in background noise, please contact us by calling (916) 646-2471 to schedule a hearing test in noise.
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