Hearing Loss During the Holidays: Practical Tips for Navigating the Noise

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After months of separation, many families will gather together this holiday season. It’s likely that at least one of the attendees at your holiday party will have hearing loss. Take steps to ensure they don’t feel isolated. Following these commonsense tips will ensure everyone feels part of the celebration, whether it’s in person or on a digital platform.

If you are the party host:

  • Identify areas conducive to conversation. Point the sports fans and kids to separate rooms. This helps guests who want to chat to do so without background noise.
  • Keep the tunes to a minimum. Music can set the mood, but it can also make it hard to hear. Turn the holiday music down or off, especially during meals. People with hearing loss will find it difficult to participate in conversations if music is playing in the background.
  • Set the scene. Make your holiday gathering spot bright, light, and free of visual clutter. Tall table decorations or centerpieces make lip reading a challenge. Keep decor under 12 inches high; this helps lip readers maintain a line of sight and eye contact across the table.
  • Consider the seating arrangement. Seat people with hearing loss so they can see as many members of the party as possible. Try to place them as far away from the kitchen and the kids’ table as possible.
  • Wait to clear the table. Clearing the table is a disruption for people with hearing loss. The noise of dishes and shifting lines of sight make it difficult to communicate, so wait until everyone is finished eating before you start.

Guests with hearing loss will benefit from the following tips from the AARP1:

  • Plan ahead. Talk with your host before the gathering to discuss where you would like to be seated. Ask that music be turned down or off during the meal.
  • Get there early.  Ahead of time, select the seat that’s most advantageous to you. Put your bag or coat on the chair. Try to get a spot that’s far away from the kitchen and lets you have your back to a wall. This will help reduce background noise. A spot in the middle of the table will allow you to see everyone gathered for the meal.
  • Use technology to your advantage. Hearing aids, apps and accessories can be extremely helpful in difficult listening scenarios. [For example, Radiant™ hearing aids, the SoundLink 2 app or the SoundClip-A from Sonic will help you manage in a noisy environment like a holiday party. The app allows you to easily control volume and program changes on a set of Sonic hearing aids using your iPhone® or Android™ smartphone. The SoundClip-A is a remote microphone that wirelessly transmits the voice of a chosen speaker in a crowded room or at a large table directly to Sonic hearing aids, to help you hear better in challenging situations.]
  • Become a couch potato. You’ll find the kitchen, buffet line and bar to be the noisiest and most crowded places at a party. Park yourself on the couch and invite someone to chat. The sofa will provide an acoustic baffle and being seated keeps others’ conversations above your ear level.
  • Use visual cues. If you don’t want to interrupt the flow of conversation, put a hand to your ear as a silent cue for others to speak up. Cupping your hand behind your ear will also help direct sound into your ear.
  • Head outside. After dinner, ask your favorite conversation partner to take a walk. Getting outdoors will reduce distractions that make it hard to hear.
  • Be honest. Don’t pretend you can hear the conversation if you can’t. Be honest about your hearing loss so people can accommodate your needs.

If your gathering will be virtual, the following tips will help your guests with hearing loss participate:

  • Use captions. Most platforms, including Zoom and Google Meet, have a real-time captioning feature. Make sure the feature is activated before the gathering begins. Do a test run to ensure the technology works as you expect. Also, turn on “speaker mode” so the image of the person speaking is larger and people with hearing loss can use lip-reading cues.
  • Speech-to-text apps. Apps like Live Transcribe or Otter.ai provide real-time transcription of conversations, which allows people with hearing loss to read what’s said immediately. 
  • Structure your gathering. If everyone talks at once, it will be difficult for a person with hearing loss to keep up. Set an agenda and designate when each participant can speak. Doing so will help your virtual gathering flow more smoothly and help those with hearing impairments participate.

If you or a loved one find it difficult to understand other people during holiday gatherings, it may be time to have your hearing tested by a professional. Find a hearing care center near you today and get the evaluation and treatment you need. Doing so will help make Everyday Sounds Better this holiday season.

  1. Michelle Crouch, “9 Ways to Handle Hearing Loss at the Holidays,” AARP website, updated November 17, 2021.
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