Holiday Season: How to communicate with loved ones suffering from hearing loss
Published: November 4, 2023
Updated: November 9, 2023
The Holiday Season brings with it family, friends, and cheer as we all start to wrap up another year and spend time with our loved ones. The cozy gatherings with friends, dinners with family, and memory-making all share one thing in common: big gatherings of people.
If a loved one, or even yourself, suffers from hearing loss, these social occasions can be quite tricky as there is so much happening all around them, making it even harder to hear conversations correctly. Compounding this is the fact that they already struggle to hear because of their hearing loss. These issues can lead to a feeling of isolation, along with other negative effects, as it is difficult to bond with those around them if they can’t understand what is being said. Let’s look at how we can communicate better with loved ones (or how others can communicate with you) who suffer from hearing loss during the Holiday Season.
What can you do to help?
Understanding the situation can be helpful to both hearing-impaired individuals, and their loved ones. Here are some ways that can help you to communicate better with a hearing-impaired individual.
Get the attention of the person before starting a conversation. Getting someone with hearing loss’ attention could eliminate the chance of them not hearing you at all, where you will need to repeat yourself. Getting their attention can also reduce any immediate tension if they do ask you to repeat yourself because they were not aware that you were communicating with them.
During the holidays, there are also multiple conversations happening at the same time so grabbing their attention first will indicate to them that your conversation is what they should focus on.
Face the person when speaking. Those suffering from hearing loss will begin to lip read more so than those who have better hearing. We all lip-read to some degree, but for those with hearing loss, it is important for them to see your lips to follow conversations easier.
The holiday season also means there are much larger social gatherings than usual, so facing them during conversations is as much a mental cue to focus on you, as it is for them to lip-read and follow your conversation.
Enunciate and articulate your words at every opportunity, and say each word correctly. Use key phrases such as “Now I want to talk about”. This helps the person to know that the topic of conversation has changed. The challenge that those suffering from hearing loss could face during the holidays, is that with so much going on, they may still be processing what has been said to them before, either by you or from someone else.
When there is a communication breakdown, repeating the sentence or word helps the person to understand. Try not to repeat yourself while shouting or increasing your voice volume, but rather try to speak slower and clearer. The holidays are usually a busy time for all of us, and for those with hearing loss, it can be even more stressful because of all the activities so patience is key.
Ask for confirmation
Ask the person questions on the topic you discussed to confirm that they heard you correctly and that you’re both on the same page. You can also ask them to confirm if they hear what you said when asking them a question, or when you can see that they may not be following your conversation. Those suffering from hearing loss can sometimes pretend to follow a conversation but may still not be hearing you well.
Use gestures when speaking like hand gestures to demonstrate something or point to something that you are talking about. Just as lip reading is beneficial in a conversation, constant reminders of what the topic or reference point is can help those with hearing loss put together context clues, and better understand what is happening in a conversation.
Use facial expressions. If you are talking about something exciting, have a happy expression on your face. Facial expressions are another way to give context clues, which adds another way for those with hearing loss to follow a conversation. Those who suffer from hearing loss do not always hear every single word in a conversation so by using facial expressions, you can offer more context for them to piece together.
Ask what you can do to help
Ask the person what you can do to help them understand you better. Remember that every person with hearing loss’ experiences and challenges are unique to them. Asking them what works for them will help you to use specific methods that will help.
Those affected by hearing loss will utilize different methods more than others, such as lip reading, facial expressions, etc. so it is important to focus on what will help them the most.
Ensure that the room is well-lit. People with hearing loss often rely on non-verbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, and lipreading to help them understand better and improve communication. All of these actions can be misconstrued if the lighting is poor, which could lead to misunderstandings and frustration from everyone.
Reduce background noise
When you’re preparing a gathering of people, and particularly if someone in the party has hearing loss, consider booking a venue that does not have a lot of background noise. Alternatively, request a table that is further from the noise. If you can communicate where there is no noise that would be ideal however, that is not always possible. You can also ask others to speak softer in the room when you communicate with a person with hearing loss.
The tips above are just some ways that you can make things easier for those with hearing loss this holiday season. Make sure to speak clearly, face them, sit in well-lit environments, remove background noise, and remember to always be patient. Understand that they are probably feeling similarly frustrated by their hearing loss as you are.
Are you, or a loved one, curious to learn more about your hearing health? Lexie Hearing has a free online hearing test you can take from the comfort of your own home. Take the test today to find out if you can benefit from Lexie hearing aids.