Hear for the Holidays!

With the holidays quickly approaching, many of you will be attending gatherings with family and friends. If your family gatherings or office parties are anything like mine, there are plenty of fun games, music and conversation. Unfortunately, all that fun can make for a difficult listening environment, especially for individuals with hearing loss. If you have hearing loss, don’t let that affect your ability to enjoy this precious time with the people who mean the most to you. Here are communication strategies that can make the holidays fun and enjoyable for everyone.

It is often said that “when someone in the family has a hearing loss, the entire family has a hearing problem.” Remember, communication is a two-way street. Both the speaker and listener need to do their part in improving conversation.

  • If you are the listener, be assertive. Don’t be afraid to tell people you are having difficulties understanding what they are saying. Assess each environment for noise sources and lighting and get yourself to a spot to maximize your chances for good hearing. If background noise is inevitable, face away from it. Focus on one speaker at a time. Listen with both your eyes and ears. Make sure you have a clear view of the communication partner’s face so you can take advantage of facial expressions and other contextual clues.
  • If you have hearing aids or other assistive technology, use it! If you are unhappy with your current technology, contact your hearing health care professional to discuss new technology or other devices that could be beneficial. Whatever you do, don’t bluff or just give up. Some communication difficulties are inevitable, but stay optimistic and be patient with others and yourself.
  • If you are the one doing the talking to a hearing-impaired person, get his or her attention first. Speak clearly and at a moderate pace. There is no need to shout; this can actually make understanding worse. If you are still misunderstood, try rephrasing your message instead of repeating. Give clues to others when you are changing the topic of conversation.
  • Also, avoid carrying on a conversation around excessive background noise. Move to a location where there is less background noise and good lighting so your communication partner also can see your facial expressions and gestures. I know food is almost a must at holiday parties; however, having food in your mouth or holding your drink near your face while communicating also can have negative impacts on effective conversation. In general, just be patient, positive and empathetic.

Whether you have hearing loss or not, these communication strategies can be very helpful. Don’t hesitate to try some of these tips at your next holiday party.

By Dr. Matthew Rumsey

Audiologist at Avera Sacred Heart

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