Hearing Loss at the Holiday Table

Healthy Hearing posted this article about how to make your holiday table hearing friendly, and it’s a great read.

How to make your holiday dinner hearing friendly

Contributed by Amie Windsor, assistant editor for Healthy Hearing

Thursday, November 20th 2014

Family, food and free time. Come this holiday season, tucking in and enjoying some down time with family is what people are most looking forward to. Holidays are, after all, a time for family and the boisterous catching up and reminiscing. For individuals with hearing loss, however, facing friends and family during the holidays can be challenging.

hearing loss statisticsChances are these conversational opportunities will actually be communication obstacles at your holiday get-togethers. According to a November 2014 survey of more than 200 individuals conducted by Healthy Hearing, half of family gatherings this year will include someone with hearing loss at the table, while only 30 percent will have someone withhearing aids at the holiday table. These hearing hurdles are why making sure everyone at your dinner party can hear comfortably and see clearly is so important.

After all, they’ve got to navigate conversation with Uncle Mike who has to watch the football game (at full volume, of course). They’ll want to catch up with your niece whose four kids are running (and possibly screaming) around her. Even the usual sanctuary of the kitchen – full of enticing aromas that are impossible to stay away from – will be overrun with the clatter and clamor of dinner prep.

Not sure where to start?

No need to worry! We at Healthy Hearing are here to help make the most of your holidays.

Setting the stage for your holiday meal is important. If you have young kiddos attending the holiday gathering, consider creating a kids’ table for the special occasion. Not only does it teach kids autonomy and responsibility, but it also gives those who are hard of hearing the opportunity to focus on their nearby dinner companions without trying to tune out little Jeremiah’s adorable “I WANT DESSERT!!!” scream. If you’ve got older children in the family, setting a table up for them in a connecting room will help seal off any potential background noise.

Speaking of background noise, the kitchen will have quite a bit of its own. According to our survey, turkey and pie are the most sought after items for the main and dessert courses, with 61 percent of people preferring turkey and 58 percent of people reaching for a slice of pie. But with all this delicious food comes a lot of banging and clattering. If you have someone with hearing aids at your holiday meal, it’s a good idea to seat them in the chair as far away from the kitchen as possible.

Another preparation you can take to make your holiday get-togethers as hearing-friendly as possible is to reduce or eliminate background distractions like the big game or music. Of course, many people enjoy background music during the day, but just make sure to turn it off during dinner to allow everyone to enjoy the conversation. Same goes for the big game; let Uncle Mike root for his favorite team during the day, but if he insists on having the game on during dinner, mute it and turn the closed captioning on.

Beyond holiday music or the big game, there are additional traditions that impede clear conversation for those with hearing aids and hearing loss

If you’re like 60 percent of our survey respondents, you probably adorn your dinner table with a centerpiece, candles or both. If this is the case, make sure to remove any extra decorations off of the table during dinnertime; chances are it will be chock full of delicious dishes anyway. Reducing these extra visual obstructions will enable people to have a better sightline of the entire party during mealtime and can facilitate stronger conversation!

All fun and games aside, if you or someone attending your holiday feast(s) wears hearing aids, it’s easy to fine-tune the environment so that everyone involved can enjoy the holiday hubbub.  For more tips and tricks, check out our Healthy Hearing holiday table infographic to learn about the best places to seat your guests with hearing aids and how you can best accommodate everyone’s needs.

From those of us at Healthy Hearing, tuck in and have a happy holiday season!

holiday seating chart

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