As the holiday season rolls around, many of us are looking forward to traveling and spending time with our closest family and friends. But, for people who live with hearing loss, the holiday season can be a source of frustration and embarrassment.
Whether it’s a grandparent, sibling, or best friend, many people have close friends and family who are living with hearing loss. While everyone else in your festivities is enjoying good conversation and loud, festive music, our relatives with hearing loss are having difficulty staying a part of the group.
To help your friends and family with hearing loss have a fantastic holiday season, here are some tips and tricks to ensure that they stay a part of the fun:
- Ask them what you can do to help. People with hearing loss, particularly if they’ve lived with it for a long time, generally know what support they need to stay engaged in group settings. Whether you’re hosting a large, raucous Christmas party, or a small holiday get-together, your friend or family member with hearing loss can probably tell you what they need to feel supported and included.
- Keep the volume down. While we all love to belt Christmas music at the top of our lungs, doing so doesn’t exactly create the best environment for someone with hearing loss. Loud music can make it extremely difficult for someone with hearing loss to stay caught up in a conversation, so turn the tunes down just a bit and it’ll make all the difference.
- Turn the lights on. Particularly for people who have had hearing loss for a long time and often rely on lipreading to communicate, dimly lit settings are tough to work with, String lights and candles may feel festive, but they’re not conducive to easy conversations for people with hearing loss.
- Make eye contact. Along the same lines as turning the lights on, facing someone with hearing loss while talking to them not only allows them to read your lips, but can help them actually hear the words you’re saying. This is particularly important in crowded rooms, where even people without hearing loss can struggle to communicate.
- Check-in frequently. If you know that one of your friends or family members has hearing loss, it can be good to stay attentive to them and to check in with them frequently throughout an event. Especially if they have newly diagnosed hearing loss, they may be struggling to stay engaged in social situations, so your conversation might just be what they need to get back to the party.
- Speak clearly and enunciate. Although it might be tempting to shout to someone with hearing loss, doing so is not only unhelpful for communication purposes, but it can cause a scene and bring embarrassing and unwanted attention to the person with hearing loss. Speaking clearly and enunciating are two great tactics for making sure someone with hearing loss understands what you’re trying to say.
- Be an advocate. If you notice that someone with hearing loss is having trouble in a conversation, it might be because the person they’re talking to doesn’t yet understand how best to communicate with a person with hearing loss. It’s important to speak up in these situations and to make sure that everyone knows how to effectively communicate through hearing loss.
The holiday season should be a time of joy and celebration, not of frustration and embarrassment. If you have family or friends who suffer from hearing loss, there are some simple steps you can take to help them feel more included in the festivities.