As the holidays approach, advice columns brim with questions on etiquette and gifts. However, there’s a dearth of advice about dealing with hearing loss, even though an estimated one in eight Americans is hearing-impaired. Because the holidays are a time when many of us socialize with people whom we don’t see often, it can be difficult for those with hearing loss and hard for others to know how to put friends and relatives with hearing loss and hearing aids at ease. Here are a few reminders:
For the hearing-impaired:
– Situate yourself in optimal positions with regard to other guests. Sit in the middle of a table if it’s rectangular; choose corner positions on the sofa. Keep track of who’s talking and turn toward them to maximize how well you hear them.
– Ask people to repeat what they’ve said. It’s counter-intuitive, but this actually reassures other guests that you’ve been following and makes them more likely to include you in the conversation.
– Check from time to time to make sure you’ve understood what’s being said: “So you’re saying you don’t like snowboarding?” — et cetera.
– Be patient in explaining your needs. Many may not have experience with the hearing-impaired or may have forgotten your hearing impairment since your last encounter.
For hosts and guests dealing with hearing-impaired guests:
– Keep your face unobstructed. Even people with no hearing loss better understand what’s being said when they look at the speaker’s lips. Avoid talking while chewing, smoking cigarettes, or biting your nails. You may also want to consider removing facial hair to give the listener a better view of your mouth.
– Make sure to provide a visually optimal environment for the hearing-impaired. This means a well-lit area with soft light, so shadows aren’t cast over speakers’ faces, and avoiding visual clutter, like muted TVs or twinkling lights. Avoid background music or unnecessary noise.
– Speak at your normal volume and pace; don’t make the common mistakes of over-enunciating, or using a limited vocabulary, which can feel patronizing. Instead, speak clearly, but focus more on facing your listener and maintaining eye contact. Rephrase questions or comments if they aren’t being understood (“What’s your address?” could become “Where do you live? etc.). Address your listener by name whenever possible.
– Reiterate comments other guests make to ensure that your listener doesn’t lose the train of the conversation. Emphasize transition phrases: “As Bob was saying,” “I guess I agree with Suzie,” “The point is…” etc.
The holidays are a time when many people realize they need to address their hearing loss or the hearing loss of a loved one. Audicus offers discreet hearing aids at an affordable price.