How to make your holiday dinner hearing friendly
Editor's note: The following story was published in 2014. Due to it's popularity and relevance, it's been updated with even more tips, tricks and fresh graphics.
Ready or not, here they come! The holidays, with all their festivities, are just around the corner. Whether you’re hosting a family event or attending one, planning for the season can help make things much less stressful. Take hearing loss, for example. 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, while only 30 percent will have some with hearing aids.
Our gift to you? Suggestions for making your holiday meal hearing-friendly for all members of the family.
Set the stage
If you’re hosting the gathering, take a few moments to consider who is coming. Will there be a lot of young children? Consider designating a playroom where they can play with their toys together.
You may also want to stage an area for football fans to watch the big game as well as a quieter area where guests can go if they want to have a conversation. This gives those who have trouble hearing a comfortable place to have one-on-one conversations.
Reduce the volume
No matter how much preparation you do ahead of time, the kitchen is always a busy, noisy place. According to our survey, turkey and pie are the most sought after items for the main course and dessert, with 61 percent preferring turkey and 58 percent preferring pie. When you add in all the side dishes and beverages, it makes for a lot of banging and clattering. That’s something to consider when assigning seating arrangements. Which seat at the table is farthest from the kitchen? The person wearing the hearing aids may want to sit there.
It’s also a good idea to reduce or eliminate background noise during the meal. If you can’t designate a separate room for the big game, at least turn the television off during dinner. Turn down the background music — or turn it off completely — while you eat. It tends to make people speak louder. Wait until your guests have left the table before clearing the dishes.
Clear the sightlinessightlines
If possible, make sure the dining room is well lit and the table is cleared of as many obstacles as possible. It’s easier for those with hearing loss to sit where they can see as many faces as possible, so consider putting them at the end of the table. This makes it easier for them to use any lip reading techniques they’ve developed or, at the very least, to see when someone is speaking.
If you’re like 60 percent of our survey respondents, you’ll adorn your dinner table with a centerpiece, candles or both. While candles and dimmed lighting creates ambience, they are also an obstacle for those with hearing loss. The obstruction makes it difficult to read lips and pick up on other visual clues which may help those with hearing loss follow the conversation easily.
Be your own advocate
If you’re a guest at a holiday gathering, don’t be afraid to take the hostess aside and politely talk to her about your needs. It’s ok to ask to be seated so that the majority of guests are on your “good side” (if you have one) or the farthest away from the kitchen clatter or television din. Enlist a friend or family member to be your dinner partner so they can help you catch conversation you might otherwise miss. If background noise is distracting you from hearing the conversation, speak up (politely) and let someone know you are having trouble hearing.
The Healthy Hearing holiday table
Please refer to our holiday table infographic for other suggestions on making your holiday gathering hearing friendly. After all, when it’s all said and done, the best part about getting together during the holidays is the opportunity to spend time with those we love the most. When it comes to family members with hearing loss, all it takes is a little advance planning to make sure everyone involved has an enjoyable event.