How to Handle Hearing Loss During the Holidays

As family and friends gather around to enjoy the holiday cheer, it's important to make sure everyone feels included. Loud, large group settings can make it difficult for people with hearing loss to feel as if they're part of the conversation. Luckily, there are techniques that both the listener and the speaker can use to keep the lines of communication open throughout this holiday season.

Getting and Keeping Someone's Attention

During holiday gatherings, there may be multiple people speaking at once. If you'd like to address a person with hearing loss, make sure you have their attention first. You can do this by calling their name, gently touching their shoulder, arm or hand and by making eye contact. You also want to make sure your friend or family member can see your face clearly. People affected by hearing loss often rely on visual cues, such as mouth movements and expressions, to help determine what someone is saying. You may also want to avoid speaking to them while you have gum or food in your mouth, so that your speech is easier to understand.

Tips for Being Understood

Whether you're catching up with someone you haven't seen for awhile or you're simply asking for someone to pass the salt and pepper, effective communication is key. One of the most important things you can do is to speak as clearly as possible in a normal tone. Raising the volume of your voice may not necessarily help, nor will speaking very slow or very fast. Some other communication tips include:

  • Use short, concise sentences
  • Position yourself 3 to 6 feet apart from the other person
  • Always rephrase your sentence instead of simply repeating it
  • Incorporate hand gestures and/or sign language, if applicable
  • Use cell phones or other devices with text capabilities

In addition, the person with hearing loss may want to bring a buddy with them. This ally can help them stay engaged in the conversation and make sure they don't miss anything.

Making Accommodations

If you're the host, there are some adaptations you can make to help a person with limited hearing feel welcome. First, ask them beforehand if there's anything you can do. Talking to them directly to learn about their communication needs and preferences is always more helpful than simply guessing. They may have special requests, or they may not.

Generally, it helps to keep the home well-lit and to minimize background noise. You can still play holiday music, but try to keep the volume low. Also, if you move into the living room after dinner, turn on subtitles on the television so that everyone can follow along.

Make the Most of this Holiday Season

With help from these communication tips, all your family and friends can feel included during the holiday festivities. If you have hearing loss, consider sharing this article with your loved ones to educate them. Additionally, if you use hearing aids, try to wear them to every holiday function. When both the speaker and the listener utilize effective communication strategies, everyone can have fun, catch up and enjoy each other's company.

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