Thanksgiving is an opportunity to get together with our loved ones and give thanks for the blessings of the past year over a great meal. The beauty of this holiday is that it’s not about giving or receiving gifts, but rather about sharing quality time and conversation.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s time to start planning your celebration. Are there people on your guest list who may have hearing loss? Here are three easy and practical tips to ensure that everyone around the table feels included.
1 – Turn down the noise
Background noise makes it especially difficult for people with hearing loss to hear what others are saying. We suggest turning off the TV, closing the curtains to improve sound damping and holding off on clearing the dishes until everyone has left the table.
If you like to have music on in the background over dinner, keep it very low so it doesn’t interfere with conversation.
2 – Create a seating plan
We know what you might be thinking: It’s Thanksgiving dinner, not a wedding. Do I need to assign seats?
For people with hearing loss, seating can make a big difference in how they experience an event. When assigning seats for dinner, it’s a good idea to place people with hearing loss farthest from noisy areas and hubs of activity like the kitchen (or other food preparation areas).
Those with hearing loss may also prefer to sit at either end of the table so they can see everyone’s faces.
3 – Remove visual distractions
People with hearing loss often rely on visual information such as lip reading, facial expressions and body language to decode what is being said. To help that happen, make sure the rooms where people will gather—for example, the dining room and living room—are free of visual distractions.
Large decorative pieces like floral arrangements, cornucopias and candleholders should be moved out of the way before people are seated to ensure that everyone has a clear line of sight.
Speaking of candleholders—candlelight can be a great way to set a cozy and relaxed mood, but it isn’t ideal for anyone trying to speechread. Make sure that the dining room and living room are well lit so that people can see each other’s faces.
When in doubt, ask
If you’re not sure whether a guest with hearing loss feels comfortable and included at your Thanksgiving celebration, ask. Check in with them early and ask if their surroundings are suitable. If they say no, see what you can do to improve communication.
For more tips to facilitate clear two-way communication, check out this list from the Canadian Hearing Society. For information on healthy hearing solutions, explore the products and services on our website.