It’s summer, oh glorious summer! But for the 1 in 10 people with hearing loss, it’s also the most challenging time for communication. Lipreading Mom should know. I’ve had 12 years of hearing loss experience.
The whole family is packed around the picnic table, busily chatting about their good fortune and laying food onto their plates. Simultaneous conversations are difficult for us hard of hearing folks to follow. And it’s nearly impossible to lip read the youngster sitting next to me who’s talking with a mouth full of potato salad.
So what’s a person with hearing loss to do at the large family cookout? Avoid the crowd entirely?
Lipreading Mom offers these suggestions for focusing on happiness, not hearing loss, at your next summertime gathering.
- Create the right environment. If you haven’t already done so, let the hostess know in advance about your hearing difficulties and for her help in accommodating you. Lipreading Mom suggests good table lighting for easy lipreading and no dinnertime music unless it’s at the lowest volume imaginable. Sorry cousins, but no squeaky clarinet performances. If a TV is playing, ask for the volume to be turned down and for the closed captions to be turned on.
- Ask for hearing help. Sit close to someone who can be your hearing helper. Decide on a code word between the two of you that means you need help in a hearing situation. Be sure to sit close enough to the helper and have a pen and paper handy in case you need the details of a tableside joke written down.
- Face your guests, not the grill. If you are hosting the get-together, have most of meal and table preparation completed before guests arrive. This will give you time to converse with guests as they arrive instead of standing over a hot BBQ grill. Lipreading Mom prepares all side items in advance, then puts everything into the refrigerator. A half-hour before mealtime, the grill items come out to be cooked. So you can spend a few minutes lipreading your chatty niece, take a guest up on his offer to flip the hamburger patties.
- Play the quiet game. After everyone is done eating, excuse yourself into a quiet room, such as a bathroom or porch. Spend the next five minutes giving your ears a break from noise. Clear your head by meditating, praying or replaying a fun song in your mind. This is your time to decompress from having to follow table conversations and also a good excuse not to clean off the picnic table.
- Find a one-on-one conversation spot. Pick the least noisy place in the backyard or house (not counting the bathroom), and grab a loved one for a chat. Just because you’re hard of hearing doesn’t mean you can’t still be part of meaningful conversation. You just have to pick your quiet spot so you can actually hear that conversation. No gum chewing or smoking allowed since you need to see a person’s lips to lipread. And remind your chat buddy to speak at a natural volume level and pace. No shouting aloud (unless it’s part of a good joke).
While it can be challenging for a Lipreading Mom to always hear well with a house or backyard full of kids, I have one thing in particular to be thankful for this summer. My hearing aids come with an on/off switch. I plan to use that switch as needed at my next summer gathering.
For my American readers, Happy Independence Day to you on July 4th!