With more than 36 million Americans who have hearing loss, there’s a good chance that one or more of them will show up at your table this holiday season. For these individuals, normal conversation can be a big challenge — a challenge that’s compounded at holiday gatherings by multiple simultaneous conversations, clanging silverware, shrieking children and other competing sounds.
As a holiday host, you can take steps to make it easier for your guests with hearing loss to join the conversation and feel more welcome.
- Assign seating strategically. Consider positioning these guests at the middle of the table with their back against the wall; this enables participation in more conversations without distracting noise coming from behind.
- Provide adequate lighting. A well-lit room makes it easier to see facial expressions and the mouths of those who are speaking.
- Slow down when speaking. Maintain a normal pace and volume, and pronounce your words as clearly as possible.
- Converse face to face. This makes it easier for others to hear your words, and it allows them to see your mouth, facial expressions and body language.
- Designate a kids’ dining room. Young voices can be very loud, interfering with conversations among adults.
- Move the conversation. Invite guests with hearing loss to have a one-on-one chat in a quiet corner, in another room or during a post-dinner walk.
- Take a time-out from the game. For many, football is a Thanksgiving staple. But it can also be a listening distraction. Turn off the game, or put it on mute during the meal. Consider designating a separate room for TV watching.
- Turn down the tunes. Holiday music can help get everyone in the mood, but it may also interfere with conversation.
- Be a “better hearing facilitator.” Surprisingly, many people who have trouble hearing at holiday gatherings don’t realize they have hearing loss. For these individuals, you may want to suggest — gently and in a private location — that they get their hearing tested.