Keeping the people you love in the conversation and part of any celebration or family gathering is one of the most meaningful things you can do. Have you noticed someone in your family withdrawing to a corner at your family gatherings? Were they once the life of the party but now seem to not want to be part of the conversation?
Even when surrounded by loved ones, a friend or family member can feel cut off due to difficulty with hearing. Too often, people with unaddressed hearing issues withdraw socially and experience sadness — even symptoms of depression.
If you’re hosting a holiday party this year, consider these tips to help ensure that your friends and family who may be struggling with untreated hearing issues stay part of the festivities.
1. Be attentive
Stay vigilant if you see that a family member or friend is quiet at a dinner or party. Maybe they’re having trouble hearing and need your help in bringing them back into the conversation.
2. Turn down the volume
Loud background music or the roar of the TV can make it especially hard to hear at the dinner table. Consider keeping the music and television off during mealtime.
3. Keep the room well lit
Providing good lighting will make it easier for those with hearing issues to see facial expressions and the mouths of those speaking. Also, be sure to shade any glare from windows that might make it difficult to see faces.
4. Speak clearly
Do your best to speak slowly and at a comfortable volume without mumbling or slurring your words. Project your voice, but don’t shout. It’s best not to chew gum, smoke or put your hands to your face while speaking. Also avoid interrupting, which makes it harder to follow a conversation. If at all possible, have one person speak at a time.
Facing the person you are speaking with makes it easier for them to hear the words but also to see your mouth and facial expressions. It’s also a good idea to get their attention before speaking by saying their name or gently touching their hand, arm or shoulder.
Often people will repeat themselves if someone didn’t hear them. Instead, consider rephrasing what you said. Oftentimes that makes it easier for the individual with hearing difficulty to follow the conversation because it may be a particular word or sound of speech that they’re having trouble deciphering.
7. Stay close
When you’re not sitting around the dinner table, be sure to stay close to those with hearing issues when speaking to them. It is much more difficult to hear someone from across the room and harder to see their mouth and facial expressions.
8. Seek them out
Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone who is having difficulty hearing is to seek them out and enjoy a one-on-one conversation in a quiet corner, a quiet room, or during a quiet walk.
9. Seat them next to someone who will be a patient advocate
Some people are just good at being aware of others’ needs and empathizing. Try to pair the person struggling with hearing difficulties with someone who will proactively follow the conversation and be patient if something needs to be repeated or rephrased. Also consider seating the loved one with hearing issues at the head of the table, which can make it easier to see the other guests’ faces. Better yet, use a round table.
Lastly, it often helps to make sure your loved one’s hearing devices are working properly by taking the individual to the hearing care provider. If they don’t have hearing aids, get them to your local audiologist or hearing center for an evaluation and check the newest offers in hearing device technology.