One of the best things about the holidays is the chance to celebrate with family and friends. Cocktails, sweaters, presents, eggnog–what’s not to love? But large parties also mean elevated noise levels, which can make it difficult for people with hearing loss to distinguish speech and keep up with conversations. Here are some simple tips that will help you and your guests feel comfortable (and jolly) this holiday season.
How can one create a comfortable environment when hosting a holiday party at home? It’s important that all guests feel included, so take a few extra steps to make sure any guests with hearing loss can interact with ease:
1) Make more than one room available for guests.
The more guests congregate in one room, the louder that room will become, and the more difficult it will be for a person with hearing loss to follow conversations. If possible set up a smaller room away from the primary party area. Your guests–even those with perfect hearing–will be happy you provided this comfortable, relaxing space for one-on-one conversations or simply taking a break from the hubbub.
2) Consider using a round table.
Circular tables make it easier for those with hearing loss to read lips and keep pace with the conversation. It’s never fun to miss a joke or feel left out, so whether you are setting up the dining room or other party areas, plan your seating so that guests can easily see each other.
3) Keep an eye on the volume level.
Although you may be tempted to turn up the dial on your favorite Christmas carols, keep in mind that loud music may be an unwelcome distraction for a person with hearing loss, who must concentrate in order distinguish speech from other surrounding noises. Even your guests with perfect hearing may find it difficult to converse if your music is too loud, so keep those tunes soft and in the background. Another helpful tip: make sure all furniture is facing away from speakers.
4) Set up a board game.
Scrabble, Monopoly, Rummy, Apples to Apples and other board games are a great way to keep the party going while allowing multiple people to interact. And they’re just good old fashioned fun!
5) Paper plates are your friend.
Ceramic dishes and silverware tends to clink and clank, contributing to noise levels. Try disposable plates and utensils instead, so that conversations can be easily understood by all.
But what if you’re not the host? If you’re attending a holiday party–whether it be a work party or a gathering of friends–there are some simple, subtle tactics you can use to better hear and understand other guests, and they all have to do with finding the right location.
1) Seek out a quieter area.
One of the best things you can do when engaging in one-on-one conversions is to try to find somewhere that is quiet. If you seek out a location with soft surfaces (less acoustic reverberations) and low music, you’ll be better able to hear what the other person says and feel less stressed overall. Try alternating time in the primary party area with time in a quieter setting to give yourself a break from the noise.
2) Take advantage of your “best side.”
Many people have hearing that is better in one ear than the other. In a group setting, positioning yourself with your ‘best side’ facing most people will give you a better chance of understanding the conversation. Think also about sitting in a position that allows you to make eye contact with others.
3) Think about lighting.
In well-lit areas, it will be easier to engage with guests–you will be able to read people’s lips and visual clues if necessary.
4) Choose your dinner companion wisely.
You know that person who talks at the speed of light? Don’t sit next to them at dinner. Instead, seek out the friend you have the least difficulty understanding. As an added bonus, they may even clue you in to parts of the conversation you have missed.
5) Inform the host ahead of time.
If a few minor accommodations will help you to fully enjoy yourself and interact, don’t be afraid to ask the host about them. A good host wants everyone to feel relaxed and comfortable and will most likely not mind turning down the music or directing you to a quieter area if needed.
From all of us at Fidelity Hearing Center, we wish you and your loved ones a happy holiday season!