Hearing Loss? The Mutual Gift of Holiday Communication
The Season of Inclusion
For those with hearing loss, the Jolly Holiday Season poses many communication problems. People typically feel left out when trying to socialize with family and friends. Conversations that are carried out at dizzying speeds against background noise still challenge even the best of hearing aids. Listening and understanding become tiresome chores.
Feelings of unease and distress are mutual. Yes, it is tough to see loved ones with hearing loss struggle through dinners and events. And for those with hearing issues, it is a depressing and isolating experience to feel on the outside of conversations and activities at loud gatherings.
So, make this the Season of “inclusion” that will carry over into the New Year and beyond.
Communication – a most appreciated gift
Spare your hearing-challenged friends and loved ones from having to ask over and over for clarification of what was just said. Meanwhile, those with hearing loss must contribute their needs and insights to others in order to ease conversations. These could be lasting teaching and learning experiences for both sides.
For family members and friends, here are some suggestions for facilitating conversations:
- Know that people want to be included in events any time of the year.
- Remember that hearing loss is a “communication” issue.
- Beware of the limits of hearing aids. Although they help in many ways, loud, noise-confused places test the limits of the best instruments.
- If possible, turn down the music volume. Background sound is the arch enemy of people with hearing loss. Move conversations to a quieter area.
- Get the person’s attention before engaging in a conversation.
- Speak calmly and distinctly. Raise your voice if your conversation partner asks you to do so.
- Louder is not necessarily better. Besides it being embarrassing to be shouted at, voice distortion and echoing can make things a lot worse.
- Avoid interrupting the conversation. Finish your own thoughts/sentences and allow your hard-of-hearing friends to finish theirs.
- When changing the conversation topic, make sure that the person with hearing loss is aware of it.
- Make a pause and allow for people to get into conversations. Those with hearing loss are not good at wrestling their way into ongoing discussions.
For those of us with hearing loss, we also have to do our part:
- Remember that most people do not know how to communicate effectively with those with hearing loss, especially at large gatherings.
- Facilitate the events by sharing communication needs and tips with family and friends. Give credit for trying. We all make mistakes and people forget.
- During conversations, let partners know what works and what does not work.
- Use your assistive devices, such as special mics, to complement hearing aids even if these devices are “visible.”
- Got assistive phone apps? Make use of them. These become good conversation pieces as people are always fascinated by new technology.
- Appreciating the efforts that are made at including us in conversations and events makes others willing to learn more about effective communication. And that is good.
- Ultimately, it is in our best interest to be positive and kind ─ yet self-assured ─ ambassadors for ourselves and for others with hearing loss, no matter where we are.
And so, with everybody in agreement, enjoy the camaraderie and the mutual Gift of Communication. Make the Holiday Season one of inclusion with Happiness and Peace for all.
For industry Hearing Safety Training or presentations, please see my website:
To learn about ears and hearing, please see my book on hearing loss: What Did You Say? An Unexpected Journey into the World of Hearing Loss, in its second updated edition. Sharing my story and what I had to learn the hard way.