Do's and Don'ts for Communicating During the Holidays

The holidays are here, which means it's a time to share and connect with family. For people with hearing loss, communicating in large groups can be challenging at times. It's important to make sure that everyone is comfortable and getting what they need in large group settings, and using these tips for communicating with people with hearing loss may help everyone feel more included. If you think it might help, be sure to pass this information along to your family and friends just in time for the next holiday party.

What to Do

  • Speak clearly. Pronounce your words carefully and speak in a normal tone to make it easier for a person with hearing loss to understand you. Speaking louder may not help, but be sure not to mumble.
  • Face the person. Facing the person you are speaking to can help them better understand what you are trying to say. Be sure not to have your mouth blocked, as some people with hearing loss rely on lip-reading.
  • Prepare to use sign language, if applicable. Signing can be an excellent way to communicate effectively. However, not every person with limited hearing uses sign language. If they don't, try incorporating simple hand gestures and facial expressions while you talk.
  • Be considerate. Practicing inclusivity involves more than just conversation. If you're doing group activities, such as playing board games or watching television, make sure it's something everyone can participate in.

What NOT to Do

  • Repeat yourself. If you are talking to a person with hearing loss and they can't understand you, do not repeat yourself. Try to rephrase the sentence instead. That's because they may get stuck on a certain word, in which case jotting down that word or swapping it out for a new one can help.
  • Talk while your mouth is full. Trying to talk while chewing gum or eating can cause garbled speech and lead to miscommunication.
  • Avoid the person(s) with hearing loss. If you're not sure how to communicate with a person who has limited hearing, just ask them. They'll be happy to see you're interested in engaging with them.
  • Play loud music. While it may be tempting to turn up the Christmas music as loud as it will go, loud background noise can be distracting and make it difficult for someone with hearing loss to hear and understand conversations.
  • Turn off or dim the lights. Because some people with hearing loss look for visual cues, they need good lighting in order to make eye contact and see expressions. If you want to create some ambience, try lighting candles or turning on the fireplace instead of lowering the lights.

The holidays are meant to be a time of connecting with the ones you love. So this holiday season, remember to use effective communication strategies so that even those with limited hearing can feel included. Don't be afraid to ask questions, express your needs and preferences and educate your family and friends about effective communication. That way, you can arrive to the party feeling confident and excited to spend time together.

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Ryan Massey, CMO HIS HLSS
Kurt Fahrenbrook, AuD. CCC-A
James D. Massey, MD FACS
2 W 42nd St. Suite 1100
Regional West Medical Plaza North
Scottsbluff, NE 69361
(308) 635-0600