The holidays have a way of bringing families and friends together. For people with untreated hearing loss, holiday gatherings can be extremely difficult. With multiple loud conversations, kids playing, music, and the commotion that make up a big gathering, it is easier for one with a hearing loss to withdraw from the situation rather than participate. You might know this person by their behavior: smiling and nodding, but not speaking. Or they sit by themselves away from the action. Or worse yet, the arguments that start when families quarrel over a misunderstanding.
The best thing to do: get tested. A person with a suspected hearing loss needs to get a thorough hearing evaluation. They’re free and take only 30 minutes to complete.
If you are at a party or hosting relatives in your home, here are a few things you can do to help someone who is a bit hard of hearing.
Address by name. If you want Uncle Charlie to participate in the conversation, start the conversation by using his name. It’s a cue that will help them direct their attention when you speak.
Make eye contact. Hearing loss usually develops over time and the sufferer has unknowingly developed tricks to compensate. Lip reading is often used to fill in the gaps for sounds that aren’t understood. Make sure you look people in the eye so that you can be understood. Conversations that cross from one room to the next are most difficult with a hearing loss.
Restate. Too often we repeat statements, louder, and with a change of tone when someone doesn’t understand what we are saying. It isn’t always the volume that causes the miscommunication, certain sounds become difficult to discern due to hearing loss. Rather than raising your voice to repeat, restate what you had to say. Be patient and mindful of tone. An angry tone won’t improve communication.
The dinner table is not the time and place to encourage a loved one to seek help for their hearing difficulties. With hearing loss, one can still be in denial or self-conscious about feeling they are “old”. Hearing loss can start well before retirement age (subject for another article or two). Family members piling on with their opinions, suggestions and anecdotes, although well intentioned, will only make them feel worse. Find a quiet moment to have a private conversation about their hearing difficulties. Offer to help find a solution—set the appointment or drive them to get their hearing evaluated.
Make it a joyful holiday, help loved ones hear for the holidays.