The holidays are a time to gather, celebrate and connect with the people we love, but it’s also a tough time for people who experience hearing loss—especially during COVID-19. Navigating socially distant group gatherings, unreliable video call quality and audio and mask wearing, which inhibits lip reading, all make this holiday season even more challenging than normal for those with difficulty hearing.

The holidays do look different this year, but don’t let that limit your holiday spirit and communication with family and friends who may have difficulty hearing.  Here are a few simple tips for making the holiday season easier on those with hearing loss:

1. Speak naturally

Hearing Loss and the Holidays – 10 Tips for Hosting - Oakdale ENTWhen we know the person we’re talking to has hearing loss, it’s our instinct to “speak up” so that they can hear us better. But shouting only makes it more difficult for the person to understand us. Instead, speak clearly and naturally. Minimize background noise, keep hands away from your face, and make eye contact while talking so they can read your body language. And above all, be patient. If you can see that they’re struggling to understand you, try expressing your thoughts in a different way. They want to understand you as much as you want to understand them.

2. Face masks

How to Make Decisions About Winter Holiday Gatherings Amid COVID-19 -  COVID-19 - Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthMany of us are covering our mouths with masks per the CDC recommendations to limit the spread of COVID-19. But face coverings make it harder for people with hearing loss who use lip reading to help them communicate with those around them. What can we do to help those with hearing loss—loved ones or strangers—feel included?

It’s important to understand that we all read lips, whether we’re hearing impaired or not. It’s part of reading others’ body language. And masks can muffle sound and make it hard for people even without hearing loss to hear each other. The simplest solution is wearing a clear mask or face shield that allows others to see our lips while still providing the necessary coverage.  Or if possible, use video calls as much as possible since they are remote by default and don’t require masks.

3. Video calls

How to Have a Safe Holiday Season During the COVID-19 PandemicDuring the last year, video technology has become a major form of communication in the workplace, between family and friends, and in healthcare. And during this holiday season, video calls may be the only way we can celebrate with loved ones.

Here are a few simple things you can do to make video calls more enjoyable for those with hearing loss:

  • When beginning the call, check with the other person to make sure they can hear and see you clearly.
  • Sit near enough so they can see your face and keep your hands away from your lips so they can read them as you’re talking.
  • Make eye contact and speak towards the microphone so they can consistently hear you.
  • If the person is having difficulty hearing you, suggest that they use earbuds or high-quality headphones that have noise-cancelling features so it’ll be easier for them to hear without cranking up the volume.
  • If the person wears hearing aids, look into whether they can be paired to their computer or mobile device via Bluetooth to enhance sound quality. Using a headset with an external microphone will often result in better sound quality than using a computer-based microphone and speaker system.

Spending time with family is an important part of every holiday season and this year will feel very different because of COVID-19. Make sure you and your family are taking care of your hearing health so you can have the best interactions possible. If you think you or someone you know is experiencing hearing loss, contact us today for a hearing examination and learn more about what you can do to ensure healthy hearing for life!