Managing the Holidays with Hearing loss

For people with hearing loss, holiday functions can prove to be demanding affairs due to elevated noise levels.

Managing the Holidays with Hearing loss

by Dr. Kevin Ivory

It's that time of year again, and holiday parties are just around the corner. With all of the merry-making, novelty Christmas sweaters, and delicious food - what's not to love? These special social events also allow us to reconnect with friends and family or become better acquainted with coworkers. 

But for people with hearing loss, holiday functions can prove to be demanding affairs due to elevated noise levels. Hearing multiple conversations at once, along with music, can make keeping pace with conversation a stressful task. 

Luckily, there are some simple ways to prepare that will allow you to enjoy yourself fully while being the perfect guest--or host--of a holiday party.   

Tips for hosting a get-together

You have to consider the needs of everyone when hosting a party. And if someone in your party has hearing loss, they will no doubt appreciate your efforts to make your home more hearing loss-friendly. 

Here's how to do it:

Provide a quieter second space. Anyone who has taken part in a one-on-one conversation amidst the hubbub of a crowded party knows that it can be challenging to catch every word said. For a guest with hearing loss, this will be even more challenging as the overwhelming ambient noise of a busy room distracts from the words of their conversation partner. To ensure any guests with hearing difficulties feel comfortable, provide a smaller, quieter room for socializing away from the primary party area. If any guests (those with perfect hearing or otherwise) feel overwhelmed by the noise, they will welcome this quiet retreat.   

Use a round table if you have one. If you want to make communication easier for any hard-of-hearing guests, think about your seating plan. Many people with hearing loss find it is much easier to understand speech if they can see faces and read lips if necessary. With this in mind, use circular tables, or a circular table formation, when setting up the dining room or other party areas. 

Keep an eye on volume levels. While a great holiday playlist is mandatory, guests will still enjoy the music if kept at a reasonably low volume in the background. They may just appreciate the ease with which they can understand each other's words--after all, who wants to wake up with a sore throat from shouting over the speakers? Keeping an eye on volume levels is an easy way to make any hard-of-hearing guests feel comfortable and welcomed at your event. 

Bring out the board games. Not only do board games allow multiple people to interact in different ways, but they also keep the party going--and they are just downright fun! A game that involves gestures, miming, drawing, or other skills might be particularly welcome to your hard-of-hearing guests. So, bring out the Scrabble tiles or Cranium, and your attendees will thank you! 

Reduce clinking and clanking with paper plates. Disposable plates and utensils are a better option than ceramic dishes and silverware, which can contribute high-frequency sounds to what may already be a noisy dinner table. Replacing your cutlery with paper and plastic will help to ensure that all can easily understand conversations. 

Tips for attending a get-together with hearing loss

Whether it's a family gathering or an office party, it's always lovely to be invited to eat, drink and be merry. However, many with hearing loss treat these kinds of events with trepidation. With a bit of planning and forethought, however, you can still have a thoroughly enjoyable evening. 

Retreat to a quieter area. Most houses or party locations will have a quieter room or outdoor space to retreat to. Make a mental note of this quiet area when you arrive, and you'll be able to seek it out later if you find yourself needing a break from the noisy revelry. A low-key, one-on-one conversation or even a few moments alone can help to recharge your batteries and keep your stress levels low.

Stick to well-lit areas. In brightly lit spaces, you will find it easier to pick up on visual cues from your conversation partner and even read lips if necessary. Helpful hint: the kitchen is always a great (and bright!) place for a great conversation. 

Pick a dinner partner. Unless there is assigned seating, try to sit next to a person that you find easy to understand, rather than your cousin who talks at the speed of light. As a bonus, your dinner companion may even fill you in on moments of the conversation you have missed. 

Remind others of your hearing loss. Many people still think of hearing aids as like glasses - put a pair on, and you'll automatically be able to hear and understand everything again. As you know, it doesn't work like that. So if you have difficulty understanding others, remind them of your condition and give them away to make speech comprehension easier for you. 

Written by
Reviewed by
Dr. Kevin H. Ivory
Audiologist & University Instructor
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Dr. Kevin Ivory, Au.D., CCC-A received his Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He then went on to earn his Doctor of Audiology degree from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, one of the top 10 audiology residential programs in the country.

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