Summer - it’s the most wonderful time of the year! However, for the 1 in 10 people with hearing loss, it’s also the most challenging time for communication.
I have had 11 years of summertime hearing loss experience. The whole family is packed around the picnic table, busily chatting about their good fortune and putting food onto their plates. Simultaneous conversations are difficult for us hard of hearing folks to follow. It’s nearly impossible to lip read the youngster sitting next to me who’s talking with a mouth full of potato salad.
So what’s a person with hearing loss to do at summer gatherings? Avoid large crowds entirely?
Here are my suggestions for focusing on happiness, not hearing loss, at your summer get-together.
1.) Create the right environment. If you haven’t already done so, let the hostess know in advance about your hearing difficulties and for her help in accommodating you. Suggestions: good table lighting for easy lip reading and no dinnertime music unless it’s at the lowest volume imaginable. Sorry cousins, but no squeaky clarinet performances. If a TV is playing, ask for the volume to be turned down and for the closed captions to be turned on.
2.) Ask for hearing help. Sit close to someone who can be your hearing helper. Decide on a code word between the two of you that means you need help in a hearing situation. Be sure to sit close enough to the helper and have a pen and paper handy in case you need the details of a table-side joke written down.
3.) Face your guests, not the grill. If you are hosting the get-together, have most of meal and table preparation completed before guests arrive. This will give you time to converse with guests as they arrive instead of standing over grill. Better yet, make the meal potluck, and you won’t have to cook much, if anything.
4.) Play the quiet game. After everyone is done eating, excuse yourself into a quiet room, such as a bathroom or porch. Spend the next five minutes giving your ears a break from the noise. Clear your head by meditating, praying, or replaying a fun holiday song in your mind. This is your time to decompress from having to follow table conversations and also a good excuse not to have to clean up.
5.) Find a one-on-one conversation spot. Pick the least noisy place in the house (not counting the bathroom) and grab a loved one for a chat. Just because you’re hard of hearing doesn’t mean you can’t still be part of meaningful conversation. You just have to pick your quiet spot so you can actually hear that conversation. No gum chewing or smoking allowed since you need to see a person’s lips to lip read. Remind your chat buddy to speak at a natural volume level and pace. No shouting allowed (unless it’s part of a good joke).
Ask Lipreading Mom
Shanna Groves was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss after the birth of her first child. She was 27. Raised in a hearing family, Shanna traces her hearing loss to a genetic loss on the paternal side of her family. She is mom to three young children, a published author, and speaker. Her books are featured at www.ShannaGroves.com. Shanna blogs about being a hard of hearing mom at http://LipreadingMom.com.