Make this Holiday Season More Inclusive with Communication Tips for Hearing Loss

With the annual holiday party approaching, it's important to consider the people in your life who have hearing loss. Will they want or need special accommodations during the event? What are some ways you can communicate with them effectively? In this blog post, we cover some valuable tips for both listeners and speakers that may come in handy this holiday season.

1. Ask them about their communication preferences.

While you can learn the universal strategies for effective communication, not all of them apply to every person. Hearing loss affects everyone differently and everyone uses different forms of communication. If they use hearing aids, they may just need you to speak clearly in a normal tone, so they can understand you better. Minimizing background noise, including the holiday music, also helps individuals with hearing aids.

Or, they may prefer to use technology, such as text messaging or speech-reading programs, or simply a pad of paper and a pen. If they communicate through sign language, try to learn some basic American Sign Language (ASL) signs, such as how are you, how can I help you and good morning/afternoon/evening.

2. Engage in face-to-face conversation.

Once you know how an individual with hearing loss prefers to communicate, you can catch up and enjoy great conversation, which is what the holidays are all about. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind while speaking to someone with limited hearing:

  • Stand about 3 to 6 feet apart
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Use facial expressions and gestures, but don't over-exaggerate them or over-emphasize your words
  • Gently touch their arm, shoulder or hand to get their attention
  • Take turns speaking
  • If they don't understand what you are saying, rephrase your sentence instead of repeating it
  • Stand or sit in a well-lit area, so they can clearly see your face

3. Plan inclusive holiday events and activities.

Just because a person has hearing loss, doesn't mean they can't participate in and enjoy the same activities that you do. However, be sensitive to any special accommodations they may need. For example, if your family likes to play board games during the holidays, you may want to stick to games that don't require much hearing or ones that allow everyone to communicate easily. For example, chess, Scrabble, poker, Monopoly and charades are all excellent inclusive options. Similarly, if you're going to be watching TV or movies, just make sure the subtitles or closed captions are turned on.

The same idea applies to gift-giving. If you're planning a gift exchange, be mindful of what your friend, family member or colleague with limited hearing might want. If you know they're deaf or hard of hearing, it might be a good idea to skip something like headphones that may not be compatible with their hearing aids - unless they specifically ask for them. A big part of effective communication is talking to people about their likes and dislikes, and to never assume they can or can't do something.

Gear Up for a Great Holiday Season

As excitement around the holidays builds, keep the momentum going with help from these tips. Through the use of effective communication strategies, you can help everyone feel comfortable, involved and confident as the festivities get under way. Feel free to share this article with friends, family members and coworkers to help educate the people in your life about hearing loss and communication.

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