The special holiday time we share with family is often complicated by reaching out to please others. When you’re planning to make that special effort for loved ones, consider taking some small steps to help those who are hard of hearing.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
In any situation, people who are hard of hearing may be reticent to get involved in conversations, whether important discussions or small talk. They may be concerned that other people will become frustrated by sometimes having to repeat themselves, for example. Make a point of including the hard of hearing in group conversations as much as possible. Take time out to speak with them one-on-one, and perhaps ask others, especially young people, to do the same.
Make Space for Everyone
During dinner time and perhaps after at a family gathering, the atmosphere may be too intimidating for those who are hard of hearing to attempt to join conversations. Before everyone arrives for the holidays, you may want to think about mapping out a place where you can have quiet conversations with them. This is not to say that you should isolate a family member in a corner away from everyone. It could mean simply sliding together a couple of recliners in a corner of the living room where you can invite a family member to sit with you.
The Buddy System
If you’re too busy being a good host, you can ask one or more family members to take time out to sit with someone who is hard of hearing. Suggest that the family member act as a “buddy” for the holidays, sitting with them at meals and during times when the crowd is together enjoying themselves.
Sound Management Techniques
If you have a large family gathering, it’s likely to be an event with festive music, bright lights and sports on TV. While you don’t want to minimize everyone’s fun, you may consider reminding everyone to keep noise levels a little lower, especially children, who may not possess the natural filter adults have. It may seem counterintuitive; shouldn’t people who are hard of hearing appreciate being able to hear things better? Some types of hearing loss can make people more sensitive to loud noises. A cacophony of sound may make it more difficult for people who are hard of hearing to distinguish sounds, like being able to tell the difference between someone is screaming “Touchdown!” or calling their name.
Leave the Lights On
Bright lights and a party atmosphere may give way to a quieter time at dinner, just don’t make the lights too dim. A person who is hard of hearing may depend on lip reading and other visual cues to communicate with others. That’s not so easy in a dark room.
The holidays are a time of inclusion as everyone gets together and shares stories. Make room fore those who are hard of hearing to participate in the joyous occasion.