According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, about 48 million Americans, or 20% of our population, have some degree of hearing loss. Sixty percent of them are either in university settings or the workforce.
The holiday season can be a stressful and challenging time for everyone, even more so for those with hearing difficulties. Large family gatherings and office parties offer a great chance to catch up with family and friends, but these and other crowded settings – like church services – are difficult listening environments for people who wear hearing aids.
As hosts, we sometimes forget that certain loved ones might have special needs that require unique accommodation, including guests with hearing loss.
In November 2014, Healthy Hearing conducted a survey to shed more light on holiday plans and how they affect the hearing impaired. The survey showed that 50% of Americans planned to have parties that included guests with hearing loss, but only 30% of hosts expected guests with hearing aids.
As you plan your next holiday bash, consider guests with hearing loss and follow these tips to help them fully enjoy the festivities.
- Create different noise “zones”
Designate a separate room for guests to watch sports or other noisy TV events. The kids will be having a good (and loud) time, too, so create a place where they can play and eat away from the main conversation or dining areas. These different noise zones will allow guests to congregate in quieter areas and your hearing-challenged guests can enjoy conversations with less background noise.
- Plan seating based on hearing needs
Seat guests with hearing loss away from the kitchen, which is often the source of loud banging and clattering for meal preparation. Their location should also enable them to see everyone clearly so as to lip read and watch non-verbal cues, if needed.
- Strategize the ideal dining experience
Ample lighting and clear sight lines will enable your guests to better follow the conversation by reading lips and body language, so avoid dimming the dining lights, using candles to light the room, or decorating with tall centerpieces. If you can, use a round table to create the best listening situation for everyone’s hearing. While dining, turn off background noise, like music or the TV, and wait until everyone has finished before clearing the table or resuming other, noisy activities.
- Stay observant
If you know loved ones suffer from hearing loss, keep an extra eye on those guests to ensure they’re comfortable, feel included in all the festivities and can understand and engage in conversations. Sometimes, guests with hearing loss might be embarrassed to speak up, so stay attentive to their needs before they have to ask.
The holidays are also a good time to have “the talk” with loved ones. If you think your loved one is unable to hear properly, encourage them to get a hearing evaluation. This is a great first step to helping those you care about protect their health.
Our team wishes all of those in our community a safe and happy holiday season!