Hearing Loss and Holiday Gatherings: Tips to Improve Your Conversations
The holidays are upon us! We look forward to the spirit of the season and the rituals of celebration. The way we celebrate has certainly changed over the course of this year! While some traditions (old and new) involve more personal interaction than others, for people with hearing loss, the anticipation of meeting people in a small group, one-on-one, or online can cause worry about being able to hear clearly and participate fully.
If you have hearing loss, it can be difficult to attend a gathering or talk to celebrating coworkers online unless you’ve opened up about your hearing loss and taken steps towards improved communications. This season, you can navigate holiday conversations successfully by following the 3 P’s: planning, preparation, and practice.
Holiday hosts want their guests to enjoy the festivities. This desire is true for family gatherings, friendly get-togethers, and workplace festivities. Before the event, talk to the host and ask for help ahead of time. Learn the room set-up, planned activities, and number of people attending, then ask the host to make some special arrangements such as:
- Providing reserved seating in a quiet location
- Keeping background noise and music at a lower level
- Requesting any planned speeches or discussions only involve one speaker at a time
- Asking participants to wear see-through masks that allow you to lip read, and to see expressions for better context
These days, friends, families, and coworkers use online video conferencing platforms to gather and talk. Video users can download software such as Zoom for free, and use it easily on a phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. Request a video platform rather than audio-only options when possible. These sites can work well for a user with hearing loss as long as speakers sit closely to the screen, face the camera, and project with good volume.
Many people with hearing loss wear hearing aids, but there are also many who haven’t seen an audiologist for assistance. Why not help yourself this holiday season by visiting your audiologist and following their recommendations for better hearing? If you already have a device, don’t leave it at home! Wear it to help you understand your family, friends, and colleagues with more ease. Arm yourself with extra batteries, too, so that you have a backup plan if your hearing aid battery dies.
Prepare yourself for this holiday season by purchasing a few clear masks and take them with you to gatherings. Several types of transparent masks are available, providing breathability and protection while allowing you to see a speaker’s mouth for lip and expression reading. You can offer the extras to those you are trying to converse with while wearing one yourself to promote the practice.
While you’re at the gathering, be honest with others about your situation. Try these tips to aid in your conversations:
- Can you hear better on one side? Ask the person you’re talking with to stand on your good side.
- Hand out clear masks before an important conversation.
- Take a one-on-one or small group conversation outside or to a quieter room.
- Show others that you can’t hear them by asking them to repeat or holding your hand to your ear.
You are your best advocate, and your conversation partners will appreciate how much you want to hear what they have to say.
For a video chat, jump on the chat early to work out any issues with others as they get online. Ask speakers to face the camera and to sit closely enough to see their lips while speaking. If someone’s volume isn’t working for you, make adjustments on your end and ask them to do the same. Lastly, ask the group members to speak one at a time so you can focus your efforts on each speaker.
Practice these tips for a holiday season filled with better conversations and you may be helping others have a more fulfilled season, too!
If you have questions or need assistance, please contact the Jacksonville Speech & Hearing Center.