The holidays are a time to join with family and friends to express gratitude for the many joys in our lives. For people with hearing loss, it can also often be fraught with anxiety.
Will we be able to follow the dinner conversation and partake in the merriment?
How exhausted will we be from all the listening fatigue?
Will we remain a relevant and important part of the family dynamic?
Setting a hearing loss friendly dinner table can help. See my tips below. Please share yours in the comments.
Setting A Hearing Friendly Holiday Dinner Table
Small changes in the set-up of a space can make it much easier for people with hearing loss to stay engaged. If you are hosting, many of these tips will be easier to implement. If you are visiting friends or family reach out to them with these suggestions several weeks ahead of time so they can plan accordingly. When we assert our communication needs, we stand a much better chance of enjoying the event.
1. Keep the noise down and the lights up
Background noise makes it hard to follow conversation for people with hearing loss. If it is your house, avoid playing music, but if you are dining elsewhere, don’t be shy about asking for the music to be lowered for dinnertime. Adequate light is needed for speechreading, so avoiding overly dim lighting is best.
2. Sit in the center of the table
This allows us to be physically close to as many people as possible. If you can control the seating, place those that are hardest for you to hear directly across from you to make lipreading easier. Try to sit with your back to a wall to eliminate unwanted background noise from behind.
3. Use your technology tools
The buzz of conversation can be loud, but I will still do better if I wear my hearing aids. At a large party, other technologies like remote mics or speech-to-text apps can also be helpful.
4. Take breaks
Despite your best efforts, listening fatigue is likely to set in at some point. Escaping the din for a few moments when needed will help rest your brain and let you regroup for more listening at a later time. Try mindful breathing to help keep your frustration in check.
5. Use visual cues
If you are having trouble hearing, cupping your hand behind your ear is a great way to get the speaker to talk louder without interrupting the flow of the conversation. Best practice communication tips like getting our attention first or speaking one at a time can also help. When in doubt, ask your communication partners to speak to you like they speak to Siri. The extra clarity can really help.
6. Practice self-care
The holidays can be exhausting for everyone so keeping healthy and maintaining your self-care regimen is critical. For me, this means finding time each day for yoga or meditation. For others it might be taking a warm bath, or enjoying a cup of coffee in much needed silence.
7. Have reasonable expectations
Hearing a group conversation at a large table is almost impossible for many people with hearing loss. Focus on conversing with those seated next to you and talk with others seated farther away at a later time. Forgive yourself for hearing boo-boos and others will too.
8. Smile and enjoy
Despite the challenges of a group dinner, try to approach the event with optimism and joy. Focus on what you are grateful for from the past year. Try to enjoy the special time with family and friends, even if you don’t catch every word they are saying.
Happy holidays to all of my readers! I am grateful for your ideas, encouragement and all your comments and discussion on my weekly blog posts. I am so proud of the warm and engaging community we have created together.
For more Hearing Hacks read my book (co-authored with Gael Hannan) entitled Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss.
Readers, what hearing friendly strategies do you use at holiday dinners?