The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year - or the most stressful! For people with hearing loss, the season's gatherings often mean struggling to connect with friends and family through tables of competing conversations and clattering dishes.
Whether you have hearing loss or are hosting someone who does, there are a number of things you can do to help everyone stay connected during festivities. Read below for 12 survival tips guaranteed to keep the holidays merry and bright.
If you have hearing loss…
- Wear your hearing aids, if you have them! It should go without saying, but this step is often forgotten. Also considering paying your hearing specialist a visit for a hearing aid tune-up before heading out for the holidays and be sure to bring extra batteries to all holiday events.
- Don't be shy about your needs. Let your loved ones know that you want to make sure you’re a part of conversations. Ask them to keep background noise such as music or television to a minimum and speak clearly.
- Team up! Partner with a friend or relative ahead of time who can help keep you in the loop by filling you in on any bits of conversation you may miss.
- Stay rested. It’s a lot of work trying to keep up with conversations when you have hearing loss. Be sure to get rest the day before and take a few minutes away from the crowd to refresh as needed to avoid hearing fatigue.
- Go one-on-one. Find chances to connect with individuals in a quiet room. Take the grandkids aside for some playtime or help the cook out in the kitchen.
- Be strategic with your seating. Try to sit against a wall, in a position where you will be able to see as many people as possible. If you have a "good ear" position yourself to maximize its use. Seat those with quiet or high-pitched voices (such as children) closest to you.
- Clear your view. Visual cues are critical for keeping up with the conversation, so make sure you can see everyone at the dinner table. Keep the room well-lit and remove any excessive centerpieces.
- Go easy on yourself! Group settings are a challenging hearing situation. Even people with no hearing loss may have trouble following every conversation. Have your best holiday by having realistic expectations and celebrating the positives.
If you're hosting a guest with hearing loss...
- Get their attention. Before you start speaking, say the person's name or touch their arm so they can “tune in” to what you're saying.
- Reduce excess noise. Turn off background noise like TV and music.
- Speak naturally, but clearly. Shouting or over-emphasizing your words can actually make them harder to understand. Make lip-reading easier by refraining from chewing while talking.
- Have the conversation, one-on-one. Holidays and family gatherings are often the moment when the difficulties of hearing loss become most apparent. If you’re ready to approach a loved one about treating their hearing loss, wait until after the big gathering has died down so you can talk one-on-one. Use our tips for helping a loved one with hearing loss to address the issues and see if they’ll take the first step toward better hearing through an easy online hearing test.