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The holiday season is a time for celebrations that bring far-flung family and friends together. At each gathering, it’s likely that at least one of the attendees may have hearing loss. Making sure they’re included in all the festivities requires some planning based on a few commonsense rules.
If you are hosting the party:
- Separate the noise from the conversation. Try to place the excitable sports fans and children in a separate room. This allows guests who want to dig in to a juicy conversation the freedom to do so with limited background noise
- Manage the holiday music. Turn it down or off, especially during the meal. Those holiday tunes playing in the background can be a real challenge
- Prepare the room. Brighten the dining room as much as possible, and keep table decorations or centerpieces under 12 inches in height. This helps lip readers maintain an effective line of sight and allows eye contact across the table
- Arrange seating to accommodate guests with hearing loss. Seat them so they can see as many people as possible. Seat them as far as possible from the kids’ table and the kitchen
- Do not clear the dishes until everyone is done eating. The disruption can be a real concern. Clanking dishes and shifting sight lines can be very difficult for your guests with hearing loss
If you are a guest with hearing loss, keep in mind these tips from the AARP:*
- Talk to the host ahead of time. Discuss where you would like to be seated. Ask for the music to be turned down or off during the meal
- Reserve a strategic spot at the table. Arrive early to pick out the best seat and claim it with a coat or bag. Stay far away from the noises in the kitchen. It also helps if you put your back against a wall to help filter out any potential background noise
- Get a boost from technology. There are several different types of accessories that you can use alongside your hearing aids to help you manage in a loud environment. For example, some accessories can be used as a remote microphone to help amplify sound in a crowded room or at a large dinner table
- Commandeer the couch. The kitchen, food area, and bar tend to be crowded and loud. Invite someone to sit on a sofa with you to chat. The couch provides an acoustic baffle, and the seated position will also help keep other distracting conversations above your ear level
- Take turns sharing. At the dinner table, it’s easier to hear when people talk one at a time. One way to encourage taking turns is to ask everyone to share what they are most thankful for from the day or the year
- Use a classic visual cue. Instead of interrupting the flow of conversation, let others know you’re having trouble hearing by holding a cupped hand behind your ear. It will send a silent signal for people to speak up, and it will help direct sound into your ear
- Don’t bluff. Don’t nod and pretend you can hear what’s going on if you can’t. Be honest about your hearing loss and people will usually accommodate you
If you or a loved one find it difficult to understand other people during holiday gatherings, it may be time to have your hearing tested by a professional. Schedule an appointment today so that you get the evaluation and treatment needed.
* Michelle Crouch, “Handling Hearing Loss at the Holidays,” AARP website, Posted December 13, 2017.