At this time of year, most of us are gearing up to enjoy festive season catchups with workmates, friends and family. But if the thought of all those social occasions makes you cringe just a little, you’re not alone. For many Australians with hearing loss, the confounding noise of parties and gatherings can be a reason to dread the holidays. An atmosphere of celebration can lead to music, laughter, lots of loud excitable conversations and several people talking at once. But there’s no need to be stuck at home on your own…
We’re here to help, with some tips to communicate more easily when you’re out and about this silly season.
Clue them in
When the people you’ll be spending time with are aware of your hearing loss, they can work with you to make communication more easy and efficient. Not that it’s really any extra work on their part! Suggest ways that others can help you, like speaking slowly and clearly, and facing you when they’re speaking if it helps to read their lips. If you miss something, let the speaker know. It’s a lot less awkward than faking your way through a conversation and responding inappropriately!
People are usually very happy to accommodate, but they can’t help you unless they know your situation.
By taking the lead on logistics, you can do some research and pick out places that will suit your needs. Think about places where the background music is low and ambient noise is at an appropriate level for you. It might also be helpful to avoid peak times or days, so there is less ‘people noise’. Places which are well-lit might not have that moody vibe, but it’ll be a lot easier to focus on people’s faces and mouth movements. Even simple hacks like choosing a venue with round tables over long ones, or carpeted floors over hardwood, can improve the experience for someone with hearing loss.
If you can make a reservation, don’t be shy in explaining your concerns to the host and ask that you’re seated in an appropriate area. There’s nothing worse – in anyone’s books –than turning up to be seated right next to the noisy kitchen or bathrooms!
Set yourself up for success
When they said ‘the early bird gets the worm’, what they meant was the early bird gets the best seat. Consider getting to your venue early and grabbing a table away from speakers, peak foot traffic areas and large or rowdy groups. It also helps to select a good spot at the table – having your back to the wall means you won’t need to worry about voices or footsteps behind you. Most people with hearing loss also like to position themselves with their ‘preferred’ ear towards guests, if they have one.
Getting there early also gives you a chance to adjust your hearing aid settings if need be.
It’s important to set reasonable expectations for yourself, so you don’t go home feeling down. You might not catch every word, but you can still have a darn good time. Sitting beside a guest who is happy to help fill you in on any bits of missed conversation can go a long way in keeping up with the conversation. By that same token, some people with hearing loss prefer to sit next to those they find most difficult to hear.
Look after yourself
The festive season and all the commitments that come along with it can be taxing – even for those without hearing loss. If you’re heading out to a party or gathering, a rest or nap beforehand can ensure you arrive feeling refreshed and ready for socialising. Taking breaks when you need them during the event can help you stave off listening fatigue, and prevent you becoming exhausted. Don’t be afraid to step outside or find a quiet room to let your ears recover if you need to.
The same goes for getting a good night’s rest after an occasion, to refuel for the next day’s activities.
For more great advice on surviving the festive season with hearing loss, pop in to your local ihear clinic. Our hearing health specialists will be happy to help you in getting the best from your technology.