December 6, 2019. The holidays…. family dinners, cookie exchanges with your friends, get-togethers with friends and neighbours…What a fun time! Don’t you love it when people are enjoying themselves? Wait… not so fast… a lot of people with hearing loss say. Some candid comments shared recently perhaps can best be described as people with hearing loss thinking out loud and wishing that others could appreciate the feelings of those who face the challenges of hearing in difficult situations.
One woman said, “It’s not fun at all! The TV is blaring, music is playing in another part of the house, kids are making noise with their toys, and everyone is talking at once. My husband and I love our family, but we wish they weren’t so noisy.”
“Family dinners are a nightmare” I was told by one woman. “Everyone has side conversations and I’m left out. I can’t follow anyone as everyone is talking over each other. I feel more alone with them than when they are not around.”
Another woman quietly confessed that “I resent family dinners. I work hard to provide the meal and invite everyone over. Then they all talk to each other and I’m sitting there wondering why I’m not just sitting with my feet up, watching a nice movie.”
“I was with a group of women, and was talking to my neighbour. We were seated at a long table. A woman to my left told me to be quiet as she wanted to hear what was being said at the far right of the table.” The hurt in this woman’s voice was unmistakable. “If she was interested in what was going on at the other end of the table, why didn’t she go and sit there?”
“My friends at my club show me a lot of consideration. They have a rule that one person speaks at a time so that I, and everyone else, can follow the conversation. My family doesn’t treat me with that same respect. It’s a free-for-all.”
Wow! Frustration, loneliness while among a group of people, resentment, hurt feelings, lack of enjoyment. While there are plenty of tips and assistive listening tools to help navigate holiday get-togethers, you first have to deal with these negative feelings that are taking away your enjoyment of the holidays.
One thing to realize is that whether your hearing is good or bad, if you are at a large table, you are NOT going to hear every conversation. That’s one reason why there are so many side conversations. People tend to talk to who is near them.
During holiday get-togethers, people are excited and often they are with family and friends they don’t often see, particularly if some live far away. Yes, the noise levels rise with the number of people, and there are many more side conversations.
So, what can you do to make these events more enjoyable? Here are a few suggestions:
- Have a rest BEFORE everyone arrives, or before you go out to an event. Don’t work all day preparing a meal and cleaning the house, then expect to hear well when you are already exhausted. You won’t.
- Shut the TV and music off during mealtimes! Take a good look at those Christmas movies on TV….no one is watching TV during dinner!
- Instead of one long table, consider setting up several smaller tables. Everyone will find it easier to concentrate and listen to a smaller group of people at a time. Ask some of the people to rotate from one table to another between courses, so that there is more interaction.
- Pick a spot at the table and in the room where you can hear the best. Most of us have one ear that we can hear better with. Position yourself so that’s the ear facing your dinner companions.
- Choose an ‘escape’ room. When the noise level gets to be too much, simply go to a quiet room and have a few minutes break to give your ears a rest. If the event is in your house, or at a friend’s place, that’s easily done. Otherwise, you can always excuse yourself to go to the washroom!
- Recognize that a holiday get-together is not the same as a small gathering. Don’t worry that you can’t hear everyone.
- If you are really interested in a conversation that you can’t hear, perhaps at another part of the table, get up and move there. That’s what the woman who told another one to ‘be quiet’ so she could hear what was being said at the other end of the table should have done.
Got more suggestions? As always, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on the blog, and send a tweet to @HearPEI.
© Daria Valkenburg
Event in Venue Equipped With A Hearing Loop: UPCOMING CONCERT: Sorensen Christmas Concert at South Shore United Church in Tryon, 7:30 pm on Friday, December 6, 2019. “Christmas Dreams” will be held in the sanctuary. Refreshments and a time for socializing will follow the concert. Admission is a freewill offering which will be donated to the Church. This venue is equipped with a hearing loop for the benefit of those with hearing loss. If you have never heard the clarity of sound through a hearing loop, this is an opportunity to try it out.
Event in Venue with Real Time Captioning: Human Rights Day 2019, hosted by the PEI Human Rights Commission. Tuesday, December 10, 2019, 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, at Jack Blanchard Hall, 7 Pond St. in Charlottetown. This event will have real time captioning available for the benefit of those with hearing loss.