Surviving the holidays can be hard for people with hearing loss. Gathering with those you haven’t seen for awhile (perhaps with an even longer lapse due to COVID), or just gathering in groups can leave you out of the communication and feeling less than merry.
It’s nothing new. Years ago, I wrote a little holiday guide for hearing folks on how to host a communication friendly gathering over the holidays. Meaning, when you have your deaf or hard of hearing guests over, you can make some minor adjustments to the environment that can help remove some communication barriers for us, which I think is pretty handy.
I mean, you never know who’s coming over that might benefit.
And most hearing folks have no idea that lighting, room acoustics, table settings and seating can wreak such havoc for those with hearing loss. Once properly informed they have varied responses. They can:
A. Follow the advice to a “T” (we love those people)
B. Cherry pick what works for them (eating by candlelight is a tradition, see)
C. Pretend they didn’t know because they never check their emails or Facebook (yet they pounce on that brand new Keurig in the Buy Nothing group – I see you, Susan)
I mean, I’m nice. Those of us who have been Deaf all our lives and KNOW this shit happens have learned that being nice is the way to go. We ask nicely. Mm-hmm.
But, people will inevitably do what they want. And there’s nothing we can do other than what we’ve done. We can only control how we conduct ourselves, right?
People will either honor your requests, or they won’t. Or they honor them for some things but not others. Or for five minutes and then stop.
A holiday gathering has the potential to leave us feeling like the damn wrapping paper, see.
Well, no more of that. It’s time to put our powers to use and get some entertainment outta these shindigs. I mean, as long as we’re going, might as well have some fun, right?
Here’s how to take the holiday bull by the horns!
Lipread conversations across the room.
Hey it’s not eavesdropping, it’s maximizing your visual edge. When they think you’re understanding what’s being said, a wink and a thumbs up will have them thinking you work for the FBI.
Check out their book selection.
You can ask them about any porn-y looking titles at the table.
Be open and honest.
If they ask you about your hearing aids/cochlear implants, take it off and hand it to them.
Watch football together.
If they turn the captions off the TV, mute the sound. Ho Ho Ho!
Pack an air horn in your purse.
If someone insists on using labels to describe you that you find inappropriate or offensive (e.g. “hearing impaired” or “deaf-mute”), toot-toot.
Prepare for the helpful-but-not-really.
If someone begins fingerspelling every word to you, respond back in kind. This will likely be a brief exchange.
When they gather around the piano…
Don’t be shy. Deaf opera!
Bring backup tools.
Also, you can leave it behind when you leave the room and when you come back you’ll see what people say when you’re not there.
Know you are not alone.
It may feel like it in the moment, but I can assure you there are MANY people who are deaf and hard of hearing who also feel isolated among the holiday crowds. And if you’d like to be in your element, you can get support here.
You have nothing to apologize for. You are WORTHY and brave. Blow your own mind with that, because you are.
Feeling alone in a group is a real thing over the holidays and it can be hard to avoid in those with hearing loss.
Despite the best of intentions, of course. But I hope you won’t at least in knowing there’s tons of people who know how that feels. I do hope these gave you a chuckle and know that you are absolutely free to do any of these things! No one likes a stuffy gathering anyway.
Happy holidays, guys!