Keeping the people you love in the conversation and part of the celebration is one of the most meaningful things you can do this holiday season. Even when surrounded by loved ones, a friend or family member’s difficulty hearing can make them feel cut off. Too often, people with unaddressed hearing loss withdraw socially and experience sadness—even symptoms of depression—during the holidays.
If you’re hosting a holiday party this year, consider these 9 tips to help ensure that your friends and family who may be struggling with untreated hearing loss stay part of the festivities:
- Be attentive: Stay vigilant if you see that a family member or friend is quiet at a holiday dinner or party. Maybe they’re having trouble hearing and need your help in bringing them back into the conversation.
- Turn down the volume: Loud background music or the roar of the TV can make it especially hard to hear at the dinner table. Consider keeping the music and television off during mealtime.
- Keep the room well lit: Providing good lighting will make it easier for those with hearing loss to see facial expressions and the mouths of those speaking. Also, be sure to shade any glare from windows that might make it difficult to see faces.
- Speak clearly: Do your best to speak slowly and at a comfortable volume without mumbling or slurring your words. Project your voice, but don’t shout. It’s best not to chew gum, smoke, or put your hands to your face while speaking. Also avoid Interrupting, which makes it harder to follow a conversation.
- Face the person: Facing the person you are speaking with makes it easier for them to hear the words but also to see your mouth and facial expressions. It’s also a good idea to get their attention before speaking by saying their name or gently touching their hand, arm, or shoulder.
- Rephrase: Often people will repeat themselves if someone didn’t hear them. Instead, consider rephrasing what you said. Oftentimes that makes it easier for the individual with hearing difficulty to follow the conversation because it may be a particular word or sound of speech that they’re having trouble deciphering.
- Stay close: When you’re not sitting around the dinner table, be sure to stay close to those with hearing loss when speaking to them. It is much more difficult to hear someone from across the room and harder to see their mouth and facial expressions.
- Seek them out: Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone who is having difficulty hearing is to seek them out and enjoy a one-on-one conversation in a quiet corner, a quiet room, or during a quiet walk.
- Seat them next to someone who will be a patient advocate: Some people are just good at being aware of others’ needs and empathizing. If someone you love is struggling with hearing loss, try to pair them at the dinner table with someone who will be proactive in making sure they’re following the conversation and patient if they need things repeated or rephrased. Also consider seating the loved one with hearing loss at the head of the table, which can make it easier for them to see the other guests’ faces. Better yet, use a round table.