Celebrating the year’s achievements and enjoying gatherings of family and friends is a major part of the festive season.
But with celebration comes noise. The chatter of people in a concentrated area, music, excited children, even clanging kitchenware while cooking, eating and cleaning, all generate noise. For people with hearing impairment, communicating in these situations can be difficult and these events can be daunting, and even isolating.
To help you communicate at your best this festive period, we have provided 7 simple suggestions for the silly season:
 START AND STEER THE CONVERSATION
It can be much easier to follow conversations that you have initiated – knowing the topic being discussed and being familiar with the subject matter provides a great opportunity to engage and participate.
 EXPRESS YOURSELF
Did you know that we sometimes have a subconscious tendency to mirror non-verbal signals such as posture, body language, facial expressions of people we are speaking with? You can subconsciously encourage others to speak clearly, use expressive body language (gestures and facial expressions) and maintain good eye contact, by exhibiting these qualities yourself.
 BE ALL-IN, BUT TAKE TIME OUTS
Filling in unheard gaps, concentrating on reading lips and interpreting body language and asking people to repeat themselves can be exhausting. Try not to fake-it though (nodding along, or laughing with others), as your responses may be off the mark and lead to awkwardness. When you are in a conversation, try and give your best effort to follow-it. Don’t be afraid to ask people to repeat themselves.
It is important to give your ears and brain regular rests. Go for a wander outside, stand in-line at the bar, take a time out in the bathroom. This can help you recuperate and recharge for your next conversation. Keeping conversations short and changing conversations through mingling, can help your ears and brain reset and recharge.
Hearing impairment is nothing to be ashamed of – studies show that 1 in 6 Australians have hearing loss and the proportion is increasing. When you are chatting with a group of people – tell them about your hearing loss. This can avoid misunderstandings and considerate and capable people will want to help by speaking clearly. Don’t be afraid to ask people to repeat themselves – you can do this in a pointed way to show you have been paying attention (eg. “what did you say the name of the resort was?”).
If there is someone at the social gathering you feel comfortable asking to repeat parts of the conversation to you, stand or sit next to them. They can relay key messages, and you won’t need to interrupt the flow of group conversation by asking the speaker to repeat themselves.
 SELECT YOUR SETTING
This is an important one, with several facets:
- stick to conversing in small groups, or focus on the person next to you at the table (conversing across a table can be difficult)
- if you have a choice, converse in quiet, intimate spaces with soft finishes, rather than large open rooms with hard surfaces (lots of sound reverberation) or noisy spots (eg. next to kitchens, speakers etc) – a wall behind you can help as this eliminates background noise from 1800 of your surroundings
- well lit spaces can help you see lip movements and facial expressions
- ask to turn the music down during meals
- if you know one ear hears betters, position yourself so your better ear faces the majority of the conversation
- if you’re chatting one-on-one, suggest taking the conversation to a quieter spot (eg. go for a walk outside) so you can hear easier and better
 WEAR YOUR HEARING AIDS
If you have hearing aids – wear them! Many modern devices contain features and settings that reduce background noise. Our Audiologist will be more than happy to discuss the capabilities of your device, as well as other communication strategies with you.
If you believe you may have a hearing issue, and haven’t yet seen an Audiologist, contact us to arrange a hearing test. Hearing tests are non-invasive and pain-free and, after the test, you are free to consider your options.
And finally, make sure that your communication expectations are realistic (even people without hearing loss miss parts of conversations) and remember to relax and enjoy yourself.