Over the next few days we’re going to be eating a lot of food, most of it around the dinner table. And that can be a real challenge for people with hearing loss.
Here are my six top tips to help you enjoy Christmas meals as much as everyone else around the table (sorry, they don’t include how to avoid eating sprouts!):
Turn it down
I love Christmas carols as much as anyone. In fact, many moons ago I was an angelic little choirgirl. But now that my hearing is poor I really struggle to hear people’s voices over background music. So when we sit down for Christmas lunch I ask for any music to be turned down or even off to give me a better chance of hearing everyone.
Turn it up
Candles give a room a lovely cosy glow at this time of year. But they don’t make it easy to lipread! So I try and strike a happy medium by having candles on the table and turning the lights up too so I have a clear view of everyone’s lips.
Bagsy the best spot
Whether you’re eating Christmas dinner at home or in a restaurant, some places at the table are better for us than others. If I’m in a noisy place I always make sure I sit with my back to a wall or a window as that cuts down significantly on background noise. And while sitting with your back to the window might mean you’re slightly in shadow, your dining companions will be in good light and easier to lipread.
If you know you have trouble hearing around a dinner table, then don’t be shy about asking people to speak clearly and one at a time. Inevitably most people will forget as the meal progresses and the empty wine bottles increase, so you might need to remind them. If you’re not sure how to introduce your hearing loss why not create an ‘elevator speech’ in advance.
Get out of the kitchen
When you’re struggling to hear it can be really easy to spend more time in the kitchen than at the dinner table. You might tell yourself you’re helping your hosts, but really you’re avoiding conversation. How do I know? That’s what I used to do a lot. But people invited you for a reason – because they want to spend time with you, not because they want to see you with your marigolds on doing the washing up.
Most of us have hearing aids and maybe some assistive devices too. Now’s a great time to use them to their full advantage. If you have hearing aids that have a sound-in-noise program it’s worth trying it to see whether it reduces the noise of over-excited kids, dogs and grow-ups. And if you’ve got a personal listener, personal loop or transmitter like a Roger Pen, then bring that to the party too. I’m going to try my Phonak Roger Table Mic this year, although I am a bit nervous about someone dropping gravy on it!
I hope these tips show that we do have some control over our listening experience during Christmas dinner. We’re not going to hear everyone all the time, but that might a blessing if Aunty Mavis starts telling you for the umpteenth time about the day she swears she saw some long-dead celebrity in Asda.
All that’s left is for me to wish you a safe and happy Christmas from the First Noel to a Silent Night without your hearing aids in!