Many aging parents find that noise can become more and more distracting as they age. Whether they utilize assistive hearing devices or not, background noise can become a big issue that can seriously impede their enjoyment of social situations. Devising strategies to accommodate for such background noise can make a significant difference in aging parents’ pleasure in social settings.
Background noise can interfere on two levels. On the surface level, the sheer volume of a noisy restaurant or street can make it difficult for people to physically hear any words coming from those they are attempting to converse with. In addition, the background noise can cause a distraction that keeps them from focusing on what is being said to them.
Eliminating background noise is impossible, but there are often strategies that aging parents and caregivers can employ to help decrease the impact of that extraneous noise.
- Plan ahead. If going out to dinner, it makes sense to select a restaurant that is more likely to have a quieter ambience. One that is less crowded with tables spaced farther apart and that includes noise dampening features, such as carpeting and plants, is good. When one dines is also as important as where; selecting a time that is before or after the “rush hour” helps to eliminate the number of diners and thus diminishes the noise level. The same is true of going to movies or shopping; a Tuesday matinee will have fewer people than a Saturday night movie, and the mall will be less crowded at 10:00 on a weekday than at 3:00 on the weekend.
- Limit the number of participants. It can be fun to be surrounded by good friends and beloved family members, but for aging parents with hearing issues, it can also add to the interfering noise level. Big bashes are fine occasionally, but on a day-to-day level it’s better to arrange for a small dinner party at home or an outing with just a couple of close friends.
- Choose seats carefully. Aging parents for whom hearing may present some challenges usually benefit from being able to read facial clues. Sitting with one’s back to the window, in an area with ample lighting, makes it easier to see faces and to benefit from expressions and lip reading to piece together phrases that may get drowned out in general chatter.
- Know the menu. Concentrating on a menu can be difficult in a noisy restaurant. When possible, people who may find this distracting should peruse the menu online in advance and have a good idea of what they want to order before they get to the restaurant.
Aging parents should not be shy about their difficulty hearing. Request that companions slow down and project more so they’re heard above the hubbub; most are happy to comply.