10 Tips for Better Communication During the Holidays

The holidays are a time for connecting with loved ones, and that often includes loved ones with hearing loss. While communicating in loud settings with large groups of people comes with its set of challenges, there are ways to help guests with hearing loss stay engaged in the conversation. Use the following communication tips to make sure everyone feels comfortable and confident during every family gathering and social function to come this holiday season.

The Person with Hearing Loss Can...

  1. Use hearing aids. Hearing aids will help you communicate better and make it easier for you to enjoy the company of your friends and family. Chances are, people likely won't even notice your hearing aids, but they will notice how much more engaged in the conversation you are. Additionally, your hearing aids may come with sound isolation or noise cancellation features that will come in handy during large get-togethers.
  2. Talk about needs beforehand. The holidays are sure to flow more smoothly if everyone is on the same page. Talk to your loved ones about your hearing loss and make it clear what your communication needs and preferences are before the day of the event.
  3. Find a good seat. When it's time to take a seat at the dinner table, choose a spot that gives you the best view of everyone's faces. The more people you can see and make eye contact with, the better. If one ear has better hearing than the other, try to position that side toward the conversation.
  4. Ask people to repeat themselves. There may be times when you can't understand what someone is saying. It's okay to ask them to repeat themselves as many times as you need.
  5. Stay close to a buddy. Go to holiday parties with someone you can trust and who can help you communicate better. For example, they can fill you in on parts of the conversation you might miss.

The Family Members and Friends Can...

  1. Speak clearly. When speaking, project your voice and speak as clearly as possible. If the person with hearing loss still can't understand what you're saying, try rephrasing it instead of simply repeating it.
  2. Face the person with hearing loss. People with limited hearing often look for facial expressions, gestures and mouth movements to help interpret what's being said. To help them see you better, stand or sit close to them, maintain eye contact and don't talk while eating, drinking, smoking or chewing gum.
  3. Make the setting more accessible. Try to minimize background noise by keeping the volume low on the TV or radio or turning it off completely while dinner is being served. Additionally, make sure the area is well-lit, so that the person with hearing loss can see everyone's expressions more clearly.
  4. Seek them out. If you notice the person with hearing loss acting more quiet or reserved than usual, try to involve them in the conversation more. When you want to get their attention, address them by their name and / or gently touch their shoulder, arm or hand.
  5. Find other ways to communicate. Speaking may not always be the best way to communicate with a person with hearing loss. If the person uses sign language, try learning a few common signs ahead of time or ask them to teach you. They'll most likely appreciate the effort.

As your calendar fills up with parties, events and get-togethers this season, keep these tips in mind to maintain better communication. Remember, if you or someone you know has hearing loss, you can still enjoy great conversation and make the holidays feel truly special.

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