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Holidays and Hearing Loss: 8 Tips for Family

Dec. 11, 2017 at midnight

Happy and engaging conversations with family members are one of joys of the holidays - but being thoughtful about the needs of loved ones who suffer from hearing loss can help avoid frustration and stress for all concerned.

1. Be inclusive from the start

People who have hearing aids are sometimes hesitant to wear them; they may not want their relatives to view them in what they perceive to be some sort of diminished capacity. Making it clear that time spent in conversation with them is highly valued, letting them know that it's important for everyone that they share fully in the activities of the day, will serve as strong encouragement to use the technology their audiologist has provided.

2. Let there be light

Save the dim candlelight for romantic dinners. Those with hearing loss -- often without even realizing it themselves -- compensate by lip reading. If they can clearly see the person speaking to them, it's much more likely they will be able to understand what is being communicated.

3. Employ teamwork

When seating the family around the dinner table, make sure there is someone seated next to a person with hearing loss who understands the situation and is willing to make an effort to keep them involved in the flow of conversation. The artful use of a few words to paraphrase something that was just said and seems to have been missed can make all the difference.

4. Make sound decisions

Music may certainly add ambience and mood to the festivities. However, especially at mealtime, music can make it difficult to hear individual conversations over soaring holiday choruses. Enjoy each others' company around the table and reserve music for before and after, when family members can seek quieter areas for one-on-one time if necessary.

5. Follow the rules of engagement

For those with excellent hearing, picking up the threads of several ambient conversations is effortless. But when talking with someone who doesn't have that luxury, giving them cues that let them know they should listen carefully, helps. Something as simple as a quick touch of the forearm, or as innocuous a slight lean-in, telegraphs important information without the assistance of a hearing aid.

6. Follow the flow

Assertive personalities around the convivial holiday table can make it easy for other people to feel left out of conversations. Those with hearing loss can be especially susceptible; if they seem to lose their place in the flow of it all, they may have a difficult time finding an opportune moment to rejoin on their own. Be direct and solicitous. Address them directly, quickly frame the topic at hand, and ask for their input.

7. Patience pays

Hearing loss is frustrating for all concerned. Don't give up! Try again, with a smile. While this price may be a fleeting annoyance, remember the vulnerability involved on the other side of the conversation, and think of the hurt and isolation that could come from a terse "oh, forget it" because of something they can't control. Think about how to help. Be an ally.

8. Don't shout it out

Enunciate in a clear speaking voice; never shout. Shouting distorts the voice, making it more difficult for those with hearing loss to comprehend, and it also makes it more difficult to read lips. Clear, unrushed speech is the best bet.

Hearing loss is a common challenge that can come to the fore during the holiday season. Compassion, grace, and good humor, in tandem with a few simple strategies, can help make this holiday season a great one for the whole family.


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