Generational Joy: Including the hard-of-hearing adult

Generational Joy dinner

For me one of the joys of the holidays is the chance to see extended family.  For many years, we had the good fortune to enjoy four generations and I cherish those photos and memories.

It’s not unusual to have older relatives struggling with hearing loss and if you do have a family member with this, as we did, you know that the whole family struggles right along with them especially when denial is strong.  Here are a few ideas to help celebrations run more smoothly.

Control Environmental Factors

  1.  Turn subtitles on the TV.  Get the host or another family member on board with this in advance so there isn’t a discussion about (possible) hearing loss during the event.  (You might even attribute the change to a young reader that likes the extra reading practice.)
  2. Establish a TV-free zone for easier conversations.
  3. Turn off the background music especially during meals.
  4. Turn up the lights during meals.  While you may prefer dim lighting and candles, it does make it even more difficult for someone who is hard of hearing to read cues.
  5. Consider seating selections at the table.  Placing the hard of hearing adult in a livelier area of the table may make them feel more involved and might actually be easier for them than being at the quieter end when the louder voices are the “background noise.”  Placing them near an empathetic listener who can repeat items as needed might also be a good coping strategy.

Generational Joy rocking by fire

Monitor Status

  1. Family events can be a good opportunity to see if someone is struggling.  Do they seem to miss conversations or make unrelated comments?
  2. Inattentiveness, distractibility and boredom can all be signs of hearing loss.
  3. Depression is a risk for adults with hearing loss.

Generational Joy reading together

Encourage Involvement

  1.  Provide an easy craft or activity for older adults to do with the children.  This might include supervision of cookie decorating, writing place cards that children then decorate with stickers or reading stories.  Board games that rely on counting and moving rather than talking can also be fun for both parties.  (Don’t forget to thank them in front of others for giving you some respite!)
  2. Offer a “trailer” before conversations.  Toddlers and young children can be especially difficult to understand due to their higher pitch and misarticulations.  Give the adult a head start by saying, “Hannah wants to show you her new doll named Anna” and give the child a prop (ie. doll) as well.
  3. Prior to the meal, ask if they will do the toast or blessing.  This gives them a chance to feel like an integral part of the meal.

I’d love to hear your tips and tricks.  Please comment below!

I’ll be taking off a couple of weeks to spend time with my family and recharge before the New Year.  Wishing all of you a very happy holiday season and much peace in 2015!



This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Melissa

    What a timely post! Thank you, Kim, for these reminders and tips to help every member of the family feel included. Wonderful, do-able strategies I will be sure to incorporate.

  2. Ronnie K.

    Can you possibly send this post to me, about hearing loss in the elderly, via email?
    I tried to copy and paste it, but that did not work.

    Thanks much!
    Ronnie….SLP in NJ

  3. Joan O'Brien

    Another great posting, Kim. All of this info makes so much automatic sense to me – and I do my best to modify the setting and accommodate my elderly dad – but thanks for the reminder to spread the word to my non-SLP family members! I hope you have a wonderful holiday season with your family 🙂

  4. Annette Macher

    Thank you so much for this post. My husband is one of these people with hearing loss and does not enjoy family get-togethers as much because of it. I will work on some of these tips and look for others’ posts as well.

Comments are closed.


The views expressed in this blog are my own and are intended to inspire other speech-language pathologists in their own practice. If you are a parent, teacher or other educator, these ideas are not intended to take the place of treatment by a certified clinician. Read full disclaimer here.