The holidays are coming up in the next few months, and big family gatherings and dinners in crowded restaurants can prove particularly challenging for people with hearing loss. Not only do several people tend to talk at once in these settings, but they also elevate their voices to be heard over one another.
Combine that with the clattering of dishes, scraping of chairs, and background music, and you have a scenario in which it is difficult for people with hearing loss to enjoy themselves. If you have difficulty hearing from one or both ears, or you wear a hearing aid, there are several steps you can take to make these big, noisy meals more enjoyable for you and your family.
Talk to your loved ones first
It is crucial that you discuss your hearing loss with your family members before a big meal, so they can make adjustments to help you deal with the background noise. They can then explain it to their children and other members of the family, so people know, for example, to try and face you when they are speaking. It may seem like an uncomfortable conversation to have, but it makes the meal a lot more enjoyable for everyone when you can actively participate.
Sit in the middle of the table
Family tradition may dictate that you sit at the head or near the end of the table during big meals, but those places make it more difficult for you to make out conversations. If you are in the middle of the table, you likely will not have to strain as much to hear what people are saying. If there is a spot at the table you know is best for you, don’t be shy about telling your loved ones your preference.
Ask that the music be turned down
Background noise poses a significant problem for people with hearing loss because it is hard for their ears to filter out this noise and concentrate on spoken words. If you are at a family gathering, ask that the music is turned off or set at a very low background level. If you are in a restaurant, ask to be seated as far away from speakers as possible and away from noisy spots, such as close to the kitchen, where you can hear the clattering of pots and pans.
Consider new technologies
If you don’t already have them, consider investing in directional microphones or an FM system. Both of these technologies can help you isolate background noise by facing away from it and amplify the voices you need to hear to understand a conversation.
Don’t try to bluff your way through
The only way your loved ones know if you are struggling through a meal is if you tell them. A family gathering is a time for celebration, and your hearing loss should never prevent you from joining in on the fun. If there are adjustments you need to make mid-meal, your loved ones will be glad to help out.