For most people, the holidays conjure up warm and fuzzy feelings of fireplaces, mistletoe, and gatherings of family and friends. For people with hearing loss, however, the holidays can bring up feelings of isolation and frustration. People with hearing loss often experience the most difficulty when trying to understand and decipher speech – especially in noisy environments. Cue the holiday music, football games blasting in the background, and multiple generations of family and friends throughout the house – and there is a recipe for a lot of background noise, and a lot of discomfort for those with hearing loss.
If you or someone you love experiences hearing loss, take these simple tips into consideration to help make for a more joyous and inclusive holiday season for all.
If You Are the Host
If you are hosting someone with hearing loss, there are many preparations you can make to help ensure all your guests enjoy their time.
- Reduce background noise as much as possible. When making all of your preparations, consider how much background noise will be present. Will your guests want to watch the big game? If so, consider playing it without sound in the background, or playing the game in a separate room. If you would like to play holiday tunes throughout the home, considering playing them on a very low volume. The higher the background music, the louder people will talk in order to be heard, and the louder the entire party will become.
- Take location into consideration. If hosting a sit-down dinner, consider creating placards for assigned seats, and ensure your guests with hearing loss are sitting as far away from background noises (such as the kitchen or TV) as possible. Also consider placing your guest with hearing impairment next to one of their closest relatives or friends, who will keep them in the loop on any part of the conversation they may have missed. It is also important to make sure there are little nooks and crannies for sitting where those with hearing impairments can have quieter conversations if needed.
- Consider disposable cutlery. This one may seem a bit weird, however, the clinking and clanking of metal silverware on porcelain plates is actually quite loud and can be very distracting for a person with hearing loss. Disposable cutlery is much quieter and these days, it is easy to find very high-end “silver” and even “rose gold” plastic utensils. An added bonus of using disposable cutlery is that it dramatically reduces clean-up time. Score!
If You Are a Guest
If you are a guest with hearing impairment to any holiday gatherings this year, there are a few things you can also do to help improve your experience.
- Talk to the host. People host holiday gatherings because they want their friends and family to come and have a good time. You have been invited because the host wants you there and wants you to enjoy yourself! Your host would like to make whatever arrangements she can to ensure you have a good time, but may not know exactly what those are. If you have a few strategies that help you, share them. Perhaps you hear better in your right ear and it is easier to hold conversations with people on your right. If your host knows this, she can make arrangements to ensure most of the guests are sat to your right.
- Don’t fake it. When conversing with hearing loss, it is so tempting to smile and nod along with conversation, even if you are not properly hearing it. Doing this, however, can lead to awkward miscommunication and will leave you feeling isolated and disconnected. Instead, be honest about your hearing loss and speak up if you didn’t hear part of the conversation.
- Get your hearing tested. The best way to help ensure you enjoy the holidays and every day is by treating your hearing loss with hearing aids. Treating hearing loss brings significant benefits to your overall health and well-being – and it supports better communication! Hearing aids of today are packed with powerful features made specifically to help combat some of the most common problems – including understanding speech in noisy environments. Who knows, a hearing assessment may be the best gift you give yourself and your loved ones this season!