The holidays are a wonderful time to get together with family and friends near and far to celebrate with good company. If you’ll be at a work party, family gathering or friend get-together with someone with hearing loss, here are some tips to help you communicate effectively and enjoy his or her company with little confusion:
Keep in mind that for people with hearing loss – both those who wear hearing aids and those who do not – group settings with multiple conversations can be a bit stressful because background noise makes it difficult to hear. If you’d like to have a conversation with a friend or family member with hearing loss but the room is noisy or the TV is up loud, head to a quieter room for a one-on-one conversation.
Do your best to make sure the room is well-lit. Many people with hearing loss rely upon speechreading to support their hearing. Thus, a dim room is not ideal.
Make sure to face the person with whom you’re having a conversation. It can be tempting to lean in and speak into his or her ear, especially in a noisy place, but this will prevent the person from seeing your mouth and speechreading. Additionally, don’t chew gum while talking or cover your mouth in any way. Get your friend or family member’s attention before speaking to him or her by saying that person’s name. Don’t start conversations from another room.
Speak at a reasonable speed, and rather than repeating something over and over if your family member or friend doesn’t hear it, rephrase it. Some sounds are difficult to hear, depending on what type of hearing loss he or she has. Thus, saying the misheard sentence a different way could be pretty helpful. Additionally, some people tend to over exaggerate their words or speak extra-slowly, which can distort words. Instead, do your best to speak clearly and loud enough, and to rephrase when necessary.
If you are the host, or are at a restaurant, try to choose a round table and to have the guest with hearing loss be in a seat against the wall where he or she can see everyone else’s faces.
Be patient. If your friend with hearing loss is very open about it, ask what he or she needs from you as a conversation partner. Take turns speaking and don’t interrupt others, which makes it challenging for people with hearing loss to follow a conversation. Finally, provide a recap of a conversation or the topic so the person with hearing loss has some context for understanding.