Father's Day: help Dad be part of the conversation
Whether your dad taught you to change a tire, pick the best stocks or appreciate the subtleties of a Bach Sonata in G minor, he shaped who you are in countless ways. There is no question that fathers, stepfathers and other father figures play a valuable role in our lives. Spending time together on Father’s Day can let Dad know just how much he means to you. Many of us plan parties or family gatherings to celebrate Father’s Day, and some of us just plan a quiet visit with Dad. You may have tickets to a baseball game, or maybe you’ve planned a day of fishing at the lake, but have you planned for his hearing loss?
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one third of Americans between ages 65 and 74 and almost half of those over age 75 have hearing loss. In fact, hearing loss is the third-most common chronic health condition facing adults. And men between the ages of 20 and 69 are twice as likely to have hearing loss as women. If your father has hearing loss, there are steps you can take to make sure he has the most enjoyable Father’s Day possible.
- Face to face is best. When talking to your dad, whether it is to wish him a happy Father’s Day, compliment his garden or catch him up on your life, talk to him face to face. It is much easier for a person with hearing loss to understand what you are saying when they can see your lips move.
- Talk at eye level. Try to be at the same level as your father when you tell him you picked up his favorite steaks to grill for dinner. That way, it will make it easier for him to see you as well as hear you.
- Use light to your advantage. If you are visiting your dad, take advantage of the beautiful June weather and sit outside or open the curtains to let the sun shine in. In the evening, turn on bright lights in the room. He will find it much easier to understand the conversation if he can clearly see your face.
- Positioning is everything. Whether you are taking in a ball game or working on a home improvement project together, try to position yourself on the side with his “good ear”, if he has one. Also, get his attention before talking so he is ready to listen.
- Don’t shout from another room. If you are enjoying a visit at home and want to ask your dad if he needs another beverage or where the barbeque tongs are located, don’t yell from the other room. Walk in and talk to him face to face since visual cues are important for people with hearing loss.
- Speak clearly. Father’s Day is a chance to reminisce about tales from your youth like the time Dad tried to teach you to drive a stick shift and you accidentally collided with the garage door. Make sure to speak clearly and distinctly, without shouting. Your dad will appreciate the chance to laugh over old stories.
- Don’t cover your mouth. Don’t do anything to block your mouth while talking to your dad. He paid a fortune for your braces, after all, so he wants to see your beautiful smile. Also, it will be easier for him to understand what you are saying if he can see your lips move.
- Quieter is better. If visiting with Dad at home, turn the ball game, golf tournament or NASCAR race on TV down. If you are having a family get-together, try to converse with him in a quiet room with fewer people. Background noise and chatter can make it difficult for a person with hearing loss to understand what you are saying.
- Take turns. If there are multiple family members gathered, take turns speaking. This is an especially important reminder for the grandchildren, who are probably so excited to see Grandpa they all want to talk at once!
- Stay by his side. June is a great time for a picnic or a cookout. When having a meal together seat yourself in the best position to help Dad understand what others are saying, translating or explaining if need be. Be patient and repeat things he didn’t hear; it’s his special day, after all, so make sure he feels included.
- Be attentive. Help your dad if you notice him struggling to understand a story someone is telling. He wants to hear that funny story his teen grandson is telling about what happened at football practice as much as you do.
Remember, a tie or a signed book by his favorite author might be thoughtful and appreciated, but sometimes the gift that can’t be wrapped is the one that means the most. What your dad wants most is a chance to have an enjoyable, relaxing Father’s Day spent with those he loves. By being attentive to his hearing needs you can ensure that even with hearing loss, he knows how much he means to you. And, if Dad hasn't looked into getting help for his hearing loss, lend your support and encourage him to visit a hearing care professional. With proper hearing help, next Father's Day could be even better!