Hosting holiday parties and dinners requires a lot of planning and preparation. Food, decorations, and music are usually the focal points of planning, and rightfully so. But how often do we stop to consider the quality of hearing for some of our guests? If you hadn’t up until now, consider it the perfect time to start. In doing so, you’ll not only make for a more comfortable setting, but not a single person at your party will miss out on the joy and laughter shared amongst family and friends.
Use a round dinner table.
Not only do round tables provide a more intimate setting, they also make it easier for guests to utilize eye contact and lip reading during conversations.
Use more than one room.
If possible, designate a room to entertainment with music, games, and drinks, and arrange a separate space for quieter, more intimate conversations. The quieter spaces are excellent for those who have a difficult time hearing over distracting noises, and can help lessen the likelihood that one might feel excluded.
Turn down the music.
Although you may have a separate room set aside for the more intimate conversations, keeping the music low is always a good way to not run anyone out of the room. Especially if the party quarters are tight and the sound covers a large portion of that space.
Play a game (or two).
Group games give your guests an opportunity to engage with one another while making eye contact and lip reading (if necessary). Charades and Bingo are a couple of classics that will surely keep the party going.
Use paper and plastic instead of china
Minimize the unnecessary noise by making use of plastic and paper plates and cutlery. The less dish-banging you have in the background, the easier it will be for your guests to keep up with the conversations before them.
But what if you’re not the host? What if you’re attending a party?
Inform the host of your needs.
Discussing hearing loss is not an easy topic, but it’s important that you know you’re not in it alone. Before going to the party, let your host know of your situation. He will likely do whatever he can to accommodate you, and will not judge you. Remember, you’ve been invited to the party because he cares for you. Naturally he’ll want you to be comfortable.
Find the best room.
Usually there is more than one room at a gathering. Ideally, if one on one conversation is what you’re seeking, try to find a quieter space – especially one that has softer surfaces, less music and fewer people so that you can more easily hear what is being said.
Follow the light.
Being able to make and hold eye contact with the person or people you’re speaking to will allow you to read their lips if necessary. When finding a space, be sure to consider the lighting. If it’s too dim, you may have trouble communicating in the ways that would work best for you (i.e. Lip-reading and eye contact).
Sit with someone that is easy to talk to (and hear clearly). Positioning yourself with your “good side” facing the conversation will definitely help you stay in the loop.
“Best Side” first.
It’s important to try and find a spot where you are able to maximize eye contact while allowing your “better side” (if you have one) to face those you’ll be speaking with.
Lastly, enjoy your time spent with those closest to you. Nothing –not even diminished hearing– should take away from the most wonderful times of the year.