‘Tis the season! For many people, the next couple of months will be filled with parties and family gatherings. It can be a joyous time of the year, but for people with hearing loss, it can also bring trepidation: will I be able to hear when there are 20 people at the dinner table? Will I be able to mingle at the office party? Or will I be isolated and bored, unable to follow conversations, and stuck smiling and nodding?
While noisy group situations are always harder when you have hearing loss, there are some strategies you can employ to help improve your experience. There are also some strategies that your friends and family can use to make things easier for you. Read on for some of our favorite tips and tricks!
For The Person With Hearing Loss:
- Face the person you’re talking to as much as possible. Direct sound is easier to hear, and whether you think you lip-read or not, everyone uses those visual cues to help understand what people are saying.
- If possible, choose a quieter area of the room. In a non-seated gathering where you’re free to mingle, the edges of the room will be easier than the center. At restaurants, ask if there’s a quieter area where you can be seated.
- Ask questions if you didn’t understand what someone said – it’s always better than trying to bluff your way through a conversation!
- If you missed part of a sentence, ask the speaker to repeat only what was missed. For example, if you heard “Jan is going to —,” instead of just saying “What?” you can ask, “Where is Jan going?” That way, the speaker can clarify only what is needed, which is easier and more efficient for everyone involved!
- Reduce background noise as much as possible. If you’re hosting, for example, keep the TV off and don’t play music during the gathering.
- Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. Let people know that you have hearing loss and how they can help. Most people don’t understand what hearing loss is like, and they don’t mean to make things harder for you. Let them know if you need them to speak more slowly, to face you when they talk, or to come with you to a quieter area of the room to continue a conversation.
- Keep your sense of humor! You’ll still miss things, and if you can laugh at the things you mishear instead of getting frustrated, your overall experience will be better.
For the Friends and Family of the Person with Hearing Loss:
- Make sure that you’re in the same room when you’re talking to them, and face them directly when you can. People with hearing loss may have a hard time understanding you when you talk to them from another room or while facing away.
- Get their attention before you start talking to them. With hearing loss, listening requires more attention than it might have before hearing loss. Make sure they’re listening to you before you say anything important.
- Speak clearly, slowly, and distinctly, but at a natural volume. Shouting doesn’t help the person with hearing loss; most often they struggle with clarity more than with volume.
- This one is so important that we’re going to say it again. SLOW DOWN! For the person with hearing loss, rapid speech can run together and sound garbled or indistinct. If you’re a naturally fast talker, this can be a difficult habit to learn, but it’s worth it to make life easier for your hearing-impaired loved one.
- Keep your hands away from your mouth and don’t talk with your mouth full. These actions can make it harder to speech-read.
- If the person has a hard time understanding a particular phrase or word, try rephrasing it rather than just repeating it.
- In a group conversation, take turns speaking and avoid talking over others. People with hearing loss have a hard time separating competing voices.
If you Have Hearing Aids:
- Remember that even with hearing aids, these communications strategies are still important! Hearing aids don’t cure hearing loss.
- If you have multiple programs in your hearing aids, settings like Restaurant, Noisy Environment, Ultra Focus, or Front Focus may be a good choice for gatherings.
- Change your wax filters! If these are even a little bit clogged up, your hearing aids may sound muffled and unclear. If you haven’t changed them in a while, do this even if you aren’t noticing trouble with the hearing aids. You might be surprised at the boost in clarity.
- Finally – wear them! They won’t help if they’re not in your ears!
We here at Earlux would like to wish you all a very happy holiday season! And if we can help you with your hearing needs, please give us a call at 1-833-4-EARLUX.