Hearing Loss Communication Tips for the Holidays

John Kinstler

By John Kinstler, CapTel Outreach Marketing Manager

The holidays are a time for family members and friends to celebrate traditions, catch up, and enjoy each other’s company. Throughout the celebrations, it’s essential to create environments and opportunities that are comfortable and supportive for you or your guests with hearing loss, so that everyone can participate in meaningful and welcoming ways.

Create a hearing loss-friendly environment

Simple adjustments, that support hearing and sight, help create an environment that makes it easier to focus on communication. Some tips:

  • Cut down on background noise. Eliminate background sounds such as holiday music, television or video games sounds, or appliances running during your get-togethers.
  • Make sure areas are well lit. No need for mood lighting! Brighter lighting makes it easier to see people’s faces and catch non-verbal cues that help with communication.
  • Keep sight lines open. Remove large centerpieces or scale back on holiday decorations that block sight lines, so that guests can see one another clearly.
  • Arrange for circular seating. Smaller round tables ensure faces are visible for lipreading. Avoid sitting where you face a window or a distracting background, making it harder to see people’s faces and read lips.
  • Designate a quiet area. Set aside a room or space that is free from the noises of the festivities, where people can engage in one-on-one conversations or take a break from listening throughout the gathering.

Educate Guests on Hearing Loss Etiquette

  • Let people know your communication needs. Self-advocating is the key. People in general may not realize you have hearing loss. Don’t be shy to make your communication needs known. Others want to have meaningful conversations with you too and will be happy to follow your guidance.
  • Enlist help. At gatherings, I like to have a hearing friend or family member help remind others of my communication needs. Strategies like facing me when speaking, keeping hands away from their mouth, and tapping me before talking, are extremely helpful, so I can be part of the discussion.

Provide instruction printouts for activities

Does your family enjoy playing games during the holidays? Try group games that do not require a lot of listening and that have visual cues such as charades, Pictionary, or card games. Consider printing out instructions for these activities ahead of time or offer to read aloud the rules to everyone. This way, everyone will be on the same page with easy-to-reference rules.

Consider video calls

If you can’t be together in person this holiday season, consider connecting through a video call platform like Facetime or Zoom. Video calls have the added bonus of being able to see everyone’s facial expressions. If the video call has a captioning feature, ask the host to turn captions on. If not, you can call in with a captioned telephone to see captions of what everyone says during the call.

Whether you’re hosting or attending a holiday gathering this season, keep these tips in mind for a fun, accessible experience for everyone. 

For questions, contact HLAA at inquiries@hearingloss.org.

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