Five Survival Tips for Summertime Gatherings with a Hearing Loss

I can't lip read you with my eyes closed, cutie pie.

I can’t lip read you with my eyes closed, cutie pie.

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!


10 thoughts on “Five Survival Tips for Summertime Gatherings with a Hearing Loss

  1. Having been deaf since birth….yes, I do face many challenges during summer. When we have BBQ get togethers, I tend to stick to 1-3 people in conversing rather than try to keep up w/a larger group convo. I also tend to stay busy manning the grill or taking care of other things party related which keeps me from having to work too hard to keep up with different conversations. I am actually one of the best lip readers my hearing and deaf friends know, so If I do have trouble at times, my daughter or a friend will gladly help me keep up or “fill in” parts of convo I missed. Anyone else have these same issues?

  2. Shelly – I can certainly relate with you. My 8-year-old daughter becomes my second set of ears in noisy gatherings. Like you, I have developed strong lipreading skills over the years, which definitely helps with understanding in noise. Thank you for reading my post and for the excellent insight.

  3. This is good info. I must say that I have started avoiding the social scene and family gatherings.

    • @latiffany Sauls – I know it can be tough to attend these functions with a hearing loss, but I encourage to not avoid them entirely. How about smaller gatherings of 2-5 people? In advance, let the hostess know about your hearing loss and what kind of help you need for communication. Please know that I am here as a resource and am happy to share any other social communication ideas.

  4. Appreciate your thoughts and insights and suggestions. My DH has a moderate, bilateral hearing loss and wears aids “in public” but zones out in noisy places or reverts to the “class clown” role. Your information has helped me understand his needs more. Thank you. Karen

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