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All the holidays in December make it one of our favorite times of the year! Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, the Winter Solstice – there are so many important holidays. It is a time where we celebrate with our friends and families, a celebration of how fortunate we are. There are religious services, family meals, parties, plays, concerts, and informal and formal activities which are happily anticipated all year long.

But even in the most wonderful celebrations, people with hearing loss often find themselves struggling to participate, especially in larger groups. If one of the people at the dinner table has untreated hearing loss he/she may be left out of the conversation, leading to feelings of isolation and depression.

Imagine this: A big, extended family crowded around a long table — passing dishes, clanking silverware, getting up and down from the table to serve, and carrying on multiple conversations at the same time. The noise level can be impressive and often poses a challenge even for those with normal hearing. Hearing accurately in noise is a challenge and words often become hard to decipher. For example, someone may state they are going to the shore on New Year’s Eve and the person with poor hearing asks “which one?”  The resulting odd looks from the rest of the table often causes the person to feel embarrassed or silly, simply because they misheard store for shore.

There are solutions for people with hearing loss and their dinner mates. Here are just a few suggestions for people with no hearing problem:

  • Reduce extraneous background noise as much as possible by turning off the television and not playing music.
  • Make an extra effort to enunciate and speak at an even pace.
  • Don’t shout at someone with hearing loss. You’re going for clarity, not loudness. Shouting will only irritate you and your dinner mate.
  • Position yourself so that you and your dinner mate are facing one another when you talk, if possible.
  • If your dinner mate misunderstands or doesn’t hear something you said and asks you to repeat yourself, do it. Don’t ridicule the error or tell him/her “never mind”. Both are hurtful and will make him/her feel devalued.
  • Encourage the rest of the family not to speak over one another and to keep their conversations reasonably pitched. There’s no need for everyone to yell to each other throughout dinner, especially if most can hear just fine.
  • Keep any frustration you have with your dinner mate to yourself. Don’t scold him/her for not doing anything about his/her hearing loss yet in front of everyone. Shaming someone is a nasty and ineffective way to get anyone to seek help.

Here are just a few suggestions for people with hearing loss:

  • Reduce extraneous background noise as much as possible by turning off the television and not playing music.
  • Wear your hearing aids, set to the program designed for restaurants if you have such a program.
  • Position yourself so that you and your dinner mate are facing one another when you talk, if possible.
  • Sit close to the individual you want to communicate with. Do not sit in the middle of a large group. Whenever possible, sit to the side of the main group.
  • Encourage the rest of the family not to speak over one another and to keep their conversations reasonably pitched. There’s no need for everyone to yell to each other throughout dinner, especially if most can hear just fine.
  • If you do not understand what someone said to you, ask them to speak slowly. Rapid speech is hard to follow.
  • Be an active listener.

The holidays should be an opportunity for joy and celebration. Good communication by everyone involved makes the day for everyone.

We have much to celebrate. We have wonderful people to work with every day, clients that we have the privilege to serve and improve the quality of each person’s life. And, in many cases, the people important to our clients also reap benefit from our efforts. A most wonderful situation!

Some information originally found in “Hearing in Noise Poses Extra Challenges.” South Florida Health and Wellness Magazine, 3 Nov. 2015,

sflhealthandwellness.com/hearing-in-noise-poses-extra-challenges/

- Associates In Hearing HealthCare
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