How to enjoy a summer party with hearing loss
Editor's note: Shari Eberts is a passionate advocate for people with hearing loss and creator of the popular blog Living with Hearing Loss. We are proud to feature her on Healthy Hearing with this timely advice for how to get the most out of all your summer get-togethers.
Summer parties are a joy – wonderful friends, balmy weather, delicious food and the great outdoors. Social gatherings can sometimes be difficult for people with hearing loss, but barbecues are easier to navigate than most parties. The outdoor location makes it easier to hear since the buzz of conversation is not bouncing around the hard surfaces of a restaurant or other indoor space. Barbecues are also typically more casual, with a variety of seating areas and alternative spots for conversation. If the first place you choose doesn't work, it is easy enough and quite socially acceptable to excuse yourself and find another.
Here are my tips for getting the most out of summer barbecue parties. Please share yours in the comments.
1. Find a good spot: Look for an area that is quiet and well lit, while avoiding places near speakers or other noisemakers like fans or A/C units. Try to sit with your back to the sun to avoid glare on people’s faces when lipreading. If conditions change, find a different spot. Seating at barbecues is usually casual, so moving about is perfectly fine.
2. Bring ear protection: Outdoor parties, especially on big weekends like July 4th or Labor Day, may include fireworks. Use hearing protection and bring extra earplugs to share with friends and family. If there are fireworks, move as far away from the noise as possible to protect your hearing. You may want to remove your hearing aids during the display or watch from inside.
3. Mix and mingle: Following a conversation around a large formal dining table is a challenge, but at a BBQ, seating is more fluid. Make the most of this opportunity to mix and mingle with different groups of people or enjoy a series of one-on-one conversations throughout the day.
4. Use technology: Practice in advance with different hearing aid settings to find which works best for you when outdoors. For example, there may be a setting that reduces wind noise. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new technologies like personal FM systems or other communication devices. This goes for any social gathering.
5. Take a time out: Take breaks from socializing to give your ears and brain a rest if needed. Head to the restroom, find a quiet spot to relax for a few minutes, or take a walk around the block. Small pauses help me reenergize for another round of socializing.
6. Don’t fake it: It can be tempting to smile and nod, pretending to hear what others are saying to avoid embarrassment or unwanted attention, but it can impact your relationships if you do this too often. Instead, give visual clues to indicate that you are having trouble hearing like cupping your ear with your hand. This lets the speaker know to talk louder but does not interrupt the flow of the conversation.
7. Relax and have fun: Bring reasonable expectations and your sense of humor with you. You might not hear everything that everyone says, but that is ok. If one group is harder to hear, find another to join. Laugh when hearing misfires occur – many can be quite funny if you let them. Remember to enjoy the warmth of the sun on your skin. Summer will be over in no time.