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Better hearing at the Christmas table

The festive season allows us to take a break and reconnect with family and friends, but social gatherings can be stressful for those who experience hearing loss.

Your Way | Kia Roha hearing therapist, Tracy Henderson, has some great ideas to make Christmas dinner conversation more enjoyable.

Woman setting table for Christmas dinner

Tracy says there are lots of tips and tricks for hosts that will make the dining space better for people with hearing loss. For example, soft furnishings like carpet, curtains and tablecloths create better acoustics and reduce background noise from chairs scraping on the floor or cutlery and glassware on the table.

“Forget romantic candlelight,” says Tracy. “We need to see a person’s face to be able to hear them best. Lip movements, facial expressions and body language are important visual cues.”

So bring in extra lighting after dark, and remove things like large centrepieces from the table that may obstruct your guests’ view of each other.

Communication is two way, so if you have difficulties with your hearing, there are things you can do too.

“Be honest. Let people know if you experience hearing loss, and what they can do to help,” says Tracy.

If the environment is making it hard for you to hear, make sure you’re seated away from the bustling kitchen or stereo speakers. Even better, ask for the stereo to be switched off.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for music to be turned down. You probably won’t be the only person bothered by the volume,” says Tracy.

Sitting with your back to the window will also help you better see the person you are talking with.

Make sure you are well rested beforehand. It’s difficult to concentrate on conversations when you’re tired. If your hearing is better in one ear, position others on that side of you.  And, if you have a hearing aid or listening device, use it.

“Don’t bluff,” says Tracy. “This could get you into trouble and you could be missing out on interesting or important info.” Instead, ask others to clarify what they’ve said and speak a little slower and louder.

It’s important that hearing difficulties don’t cause you to avoid Christmas with the family. “Relax and enjoy the food and company, even if you don’t catch every word,” says Tracy.

Your Way | Kia Roha hearing therapists are trained to teach ways of improving your communication skills — and their national service is free.

Contact a Hearing Therapist in your area or you can register to make a hearing appointment.

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