Most people who are hard or hearing or deaf do well in conversation with one or two people in a quiet room. They wear hearing aids to amplify sound waves coming into the ear; or they use cochlear implants, which bring sound directly into the hearing center in the brain. At celebrations, where there are more people, music, shuffling chairs and clinking tableware, much of the conversation is lost. By the time they locate the sound, turn their head to read the lips or otherwise catch what one person said, a person with hearing loss misses what the second or third individual has said. While communication is fine in the first setting, the communication breakdown in the second setting can be confusing. Family members and the person with hearing loss themselves may not realize what is happening or know how to restore the social bond.
According to an abstract from the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health: “Elderly individuals with [hearing loss] have an increased rate of developing dementia … than their non-hearing-impaired counterparts. These findings suggest that hearing impairment may be a marker for cognitive dysfunction in adults age 65 years and older.”
Could this be because social interaction is diminished? What are some of the choices of the individual who can’t follow a conversation among three or more people due to communication barriers? Self-select out of going to parties? Sit alone? Do all of the talking?
In many cases, the missing link between a person with hearing loss and their loved ones is the bridge to communication. Family parties can be as much fun for young and old guests/honorees with hearing loss as it is for the rest of the family. The best way to include Bubbe or Cousin Gabe in the celebration is to use a personal captioner with a small monitor placed in front of the guest. It differs from any other mode currently available because the speed and accuracy of translation adds to the natural flow of conversation instead of taking away from the interaction and bonding while everyone tries to figure out the “bloopers” of artificial intelligence.
The picture here is of a 100th birthday party. The monitor is small enough to be placed on the table with plenty of room for family to lean in and chat. Grandpa was able to see his loved ones close up and enjoy the interaction. He is still going strong and on his way to 101! Mazel Tov!
Randi C. Friedman, CCP, CRR, RPR, has been providing Open Captioning to audiences for over 15 years. She has Open Captioned U.S. Presidents, Bon Jovi and ordinary people. She and her company, The Open Captioners, educate business and government leaders, clergy, educators and the general population on Removing Unconscious Barriers (RUB)© to communication access. In the near future, she will provide personal captioning to a young bride on her wedding day.