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Host a hearing-friendly barbecue this summer

It’s barbecue season and, this summer, Your Way | Kia Roha Hearing is urging hosts to extend their Kiwi hospitality to guests who have trouble hearing.

Loud music, soft lighting and lots of rowdy conversation may sound like fun for a lot of people but this scenario is challenging for the one in six New Zealanders who have hearing loss.  So challenging, that many people with hearing loss choose to stay home rather than go along and struggle or feel ‘silly’ when they mishear.

“We know hearing loss can lead to social isolation,” says hearing therapist Anne Greatbatch, “and that’s a shame because there are some really simple strategies that hosts can follow to ensure everyone has a good night at a barbecue or similar social gathering.

“If someone is my guest, I’ll make the extra effort – it’s just part of offering hospitality.”

Here are Anne’s three top tips for hosting a hearing-friendly barbecue:

1.       Keep the music down, or even better, keep it off until it’s time for dancing. Background music can make it very difficult for someone with a hearing impairment to hear conversation.

2.       Have a light source available once the sun sets. Dim lighting makes it tricky for people to lip read and pick up on the visual cues that help with communication.

3.       It’s always polite to introduce everyone properly. That way people will be able to use each other’s name to get their attention before speaking.

In an ideal world, people with hearing loss would be confident and assertive enough to make their hearing needs known when attending events or meeting new people.  But in reality, they often feel self-conscious about their hearing loss and, rather than speak up, they may ‘bluff’ their way through conversations or withdraw altogether.

“Unfairly, there seems to be a stigma attached to hearing loss,” says Anne.

“Part of what we do at Your Way | Kia Roha Hearing is encourage people to talk with family and friends about their hearing challenges. Once other people know how your hearing loss impacts your ability to enjoy everyday activities that others may take for granted, they are usually happy to make adjustments to make communication easier.”

Hearing Therapy is an independent and free service funded by the Whaikaha Ministry of Disabled People and available to New Zealanders aged 16 years and over. To make an appointment at a clinic near you, book online or call 0800 008 011.

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