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Top tips for a tip-top festive dinner

There’s a good chance someone at your table will have hearing loss.
Here are four ways to help everyone feel included.
table with plates and glasses

1. Set the stage to suit everyone

The sound environment has a big effect on people with hearing loss. So a successful dinner begins with careful design of the ‘stage’ to minimize the noise they experience. When you decide where people should sit, you can use place cards or reserve a chair with a special cushion.

  • Place people with hearing problems away from the kitchen or food preparation area

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2. Reduce the volume

Background noise makes it hard to hear, especially as there may already be plenty of excited chatter, galloping cutlery, and clattering plates and pans.

As background noise increases, people tend to speak louder. The noise can quickly escalate, which is bad news for anyone with hearing difficulties

  • Turn the music down to set the general sound level fairly low

  • Close the curtains to improve sound damping, and also reduce glare and reflections

  • Wait until your guests have left the table before clearing the dishes

  • Turn the TV off while you eat, or select subtitles or closed captioning so people can follow it silently

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3. Help the eyes to help the ears 

Looking at people’s faces makes it easier to see when someone begins speaking and then to read their lips, facial expressions, and other types of body language.

Unfortunately, many older hearing aids still use narrow directionality*, so the wearer has difficulty hearing anyone they are not looking at. If someone begins making a speech, the person with hearing loss may be unaware unless they see it happening and then turn to listen.

*Find out how directionality is now a thing of the past

  • Make sure the dining room is well lit and people can see each other’s faces clearly

  • Balance mood lighting with the needs of those who need to see clearly to follow the conversation

  • Remove any large objects from the table so people can see easily along it

  • Place candles at the sides of the room rather than in the middle of the table

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4. Help others to help you

If you suffer from hearing loss, you probably know that people are not always aware of your needs. So it is important that you tell them. Otherwise, how can they know?

  • Tell your hosts what makes it easier for you. Maybe ask to sit where most guests are on your ‘good side’, or farthest from the kitchen or TV

  • Ask your neighbour at the table to help you catch conversation or nudge you if someone is trying to get your attention

  • If you find yourself struggling, tell people to face you when they speak to you

  • If you find background noise distracting, politely let someone know you are having trouble hearing

If you can understand 50% of what people are saying, you get just enough to participate.

Below 50%, you hear too little information, so the speech loses meaning. That is why noisy places make it harder to take part.

See how you can participate more

  • Do you recognise early signs of hearing loss?

    Ask yourself 6 questions. If you can answer YES to more of them, it canbe signs of hearing loss.

  • Working as a team at home

    Hearing loss impacts the whole family. The best advice for your family is to act as a team and learn to adapt together.

  • I am having a problem

    Having trouble with your hearing aid? Find solutions to the most common problems here.

  • Find a hearing centre

    A hearing care professional can test your hearing and devise a treatment that suits you