While visiting family over the holidays is a fun way to catch up, but it can also be stressful for those with hearing loss. Asking people to repeat the punch line of a joke or the key moment of a story is uncomfortable for those with hearing loss. As a result, most people don’t ask, which makes them feel even more lonely and isolated.
Hearing aids certainly reduce the impact of hearing loss, though there are still ways that family and friends can make hearing easier.
Here are some tips to make the holidays enjoyable for everyone at the table and how you can support loved ones with hearing loss.
Turn Down Background Noise
Television and holiday music can make hearing very difficult. If you want to watch television, have it in a different room away from most conversations and make sure it is turned off or silent with subtitles during dinner.
Holiday music is another enemy for the hearing impaired, so try to leave the music in a different room or turn it off completely.
One of the best ways to reduce miscommunications is to converse consciously. If you’re talking to someone with hearing loss, tap them on the shoulder and ensure you have their full attention before you begin speaking. Be sure to face the person as you talk to them so they can read your lips if necessary.
In general, avoid too many loud conversations at once and request that people converse softly unless they are speaking directly to a hearing-impaired person. If you can put children in a separate dining room, this will help reduce noise and make it easier for the family to converse.
If you know that one of your guests is hearing-impaired, be sure to seat them with someone that will help them communicate and repeat key phrases. This person could be a close friend, or you can dedicate someone from your family to help.
Repeating Yourself Appropriately
If you’re conversing with someone and they can’t understand you, repeat what you said with different phrasing. Some pitches are difficult to hear, and rephrasing your sentence with different words can eliminate these pitches. While raising your voice may help, it’s best to rephrase what you said and speak slowly so that they can read your lips.
If the person still doesn’t understand, you can always write it down either on paper or a smartphone.
Actively Involve Them in Conversation
If you’re speaking to a room full of people, it’s easy to forget that someone might not be able to hear what you’re saying. This distance can make them feel left out and lonely, so actively watch them for comprehension. If they aren’t nodding their head and following along, take a moment to slow down and rephrase what you said.
As we’re all busy during the year, holidays are among the few times that we can gather with loved ones. Make an effort to involve those with hearing loss in the conversation and make them feel comfortable.
About the Author:
Pauline Dinnauer is the VP of Audiological Care at Connect Hearing, which provides industry-leading hearing loss, hearing testing, and hearing aid consultation across the US.