Summertime offers the opportunity for a kind of social encounter that those with significant hearing loss don’t get often enough — an outdoor party.
Being outside, without air conditioners humming or loud music blaring, makes it easier to hear in a crowd. As long as the light is good enough to read lips — and there aren’t too many mustaches in the group — parties can be fun, even with hearing loss.
Most parties are indoors, however, and even the most sedate get-togethers tend to get louder as the evening wears on, until the walls resonate with sound. Listening and understanding is hard work. It’s probably work for hearing people as well, but for them it’s just a party thing. For people with hearing like mine, it’s daily life.
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Some environments are not conducive to those with hearing loss, no matter how well they read lips. A party with live music, for instance, is uncomfortable. A wedding reception with endless toasts that I can’t hear gets boring pretty quickly. A particularly clattery party space, whether it’s someone’s living room or a cavernous restaurant, sets up too much competing noise.
My party tolerance is based on the ratio of how much I hear to how hard I’ve had to work to hear it. It doesn’t take many dull — or misheard — conversations before the effort outweighs the reward.
Using assistive devices like an FM system can help, but I find they are more effective in quieter environments. At a noisy party they pick up too much ambient noise.
And then there’s the exhaustion factor. The harder I work to hear, the more quickly I get tired. Also the harder I work to hear, the more I seem to drink, which further accelerates the pace at which I wear out.
To make things easier, here are four tips to help you enjoy a party, even with hearing loss:
- Invite someone to sit on a couch with you and chat one to one. Not only will the couch provide a little acoustic baffle, but the noise will be above you, and less intrusive.
- Talk to people who have loud and clear voices, or very expressive faces. I hear women better, because of the pitch of their voices. People with good low-frequency hearing may hear men better.
- Make sure the light is not in your eyes or, alternatively, that it’s not too dark.
- If it’s a warm evening, invite the person you’re talking with to go out into the garden or onto the terrace or roof where there may be less noise.
Or, just enjoy the elements you can appreciate. The older I get, the more confident I feel about standing to one side at a party, watching the chatter, noting the outfits, nibbling the food, having a drink. And then I head home to blessed silence and a book.
But summer parties are fun, even for me. Get me out to the patio, fire up the tiki torches, pull up a chair and let’s have a talk!
Also of Interest
- Five Ways to Hear Better and Avoid Awkwardness
- 5 Ways to Not Sound Old
- Put your time, knowledge and talent to use as a tutor with AARP Foundation Experience Corps
- Join AARP: Savings, Resources and News for Your Well-Being
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