Helping a Loved one Navigate Social Event - 3 Ways you can help
by Envoy Medical Staff Member, on December 10, 2022
The holiday season is here along with an increase in social celebrations both large and small. Whether it’s attending large gatherings in restaurants, neighborhood cocktail parties, family gatherings, or religious events, communication challenges exist in each varied environment which can create stress and frustration.
With approximately 37.5 million adults reporting some trouble hearing, chances are you know someone who is managing these situations and could use some support to feel less lost or more connected.
After interviewing several real people living with hearing loss of varying degrees, we can share some tips that might help improve social events for your loved one this season. In large gatherings, it can feel redundant to mention your hearing challenges in every interaction and having someone providing support in a dignified way can make all the difference. Below are some tips that will help you provide support.
1. Every environment is different:
"Don't assume if we can hear at one event, we will hear the same way at another," says Joan. "I can be at one restaurant and be able to hear, but there are other places where it's so loud I can hardly understand anyone."
What might you notice?
- your loved one may be doing a lot of nodding and smiling
- you may notice discomfort or some agitation as they may feel lost
- some may not want to attend or will want to leave early
How can you discreetly help?
- help provide context. Join the conversation and share the topic in a clear way to help provide some clarity.
- mention your loved one to provide a cue, for example: "We also love Boston, Joan and I visited there years ago, remember that museum we visited?" allowing space for your loved one to interject and share a story.
- standing nearby and moving to the edge of the room can also help improve the hearing environment in a loud setting.
2. Our hearing ability can depend on the speaker
"There are certain people in my family, who are "low talkers", says Dick, "I have a particularly hard time understanding them regardless of the situation." Some people speak more quietly, don't enunciate, or simply have a voice that does not work well with one's own unique hearing loss.
What might you notice?
- we avoid communicating with certain people.
- we look confused
- we are asking someone to repeat themselves several times and might be leaning in.
How you can discreetly help:
- try to learn which people are especially challenging for your loved one ahead of time and connect with that person together
- help provide context by repeating more of what you hear. "Jim it's so fun to hear about your granddaughter, seven is a great age!", then allow Dick to comment or share something relevant.
- when someone joins your conversation it's always helpful to stop and summarize what you are talking about to include the person who just joined. "Hi Dick, we were just talking about that huge snowstorm in New York, Bill's son lives there".
- If it still seems challenging help to provide a way out if needed, by transitioning out of the conversation. Most of us have experience in this area.
3. We might need a recap afterward
"Whether I am at an event with a significant other, my sister, or a friend, I always make sure we have what I call a download afterward", says Kristi. "This is when I chat one on one with whomever I went with to clarify that I understood correctly in our conversations. We fill in the blanks because I usually miss a few things. This helps me feel connected and aware of the important things, and it's also fun ".
What you might notice:
- we missed parts of the conversation
- we didn't react to a comment and may have missed it
- we may be out of the loop on something, for example where people are going next.
What can you do?
- Share the conversations you had and what you learned.
- help fill in the blanks, "Did you catch that Ryan lost his job?"
- did you see they moved the next event to January?
These tips will help you provide support to your loved one or your friend and will also enhance your social skills. Remember, we are tired of listening after these events, so allow us to recharge. Sometimes we just know an event or location is going to be especially hard, so try to understand when we prefer to skip these events.
Having a friend or loved one that understands and can provide support like this makes a huge difference and can really improve our connections.