Crowded rooms

Section A- Crowded rooms (this includes situations where lots of people are expected to be together e.g. parties, theatre intervals, before and after meetings, pubs, restaurants, etc.)

This page contains:

A.a. Making the most of the environment (Crowded rooms)
A.b. Choice of party/meeting etc (Crowded rooms)
A.c. Choice of person to talk to (Crowded rooms)
A.d. Hearing aids and hearing strategies (Crowded rooms)
A.e. Lipreading (Crowded rooms)
A.f. Explanations and getting help (Crowded rooms)

To see Section A.g. to A.n. click here.

Please note that some of these strategies only refer to parties.

1. Some people said that they’ve found it is important never to get overtired before a big “do” as they need to be able to concentrate. 

2. One person said that before arriving anywhere with a crowd of people he always has a good excuse to leave early ready so he can use it if he feels it’s getting too much for him.

People have found the following helpful:

A.a. Making the most of the environment (Crowded rooms)

1. Some people prefer to always arrive early before it gets too crowded and noisy as it usually means that they can find the best position for themselves to hear/lipread.

2. I work out which is the best position for me when I’m in a group. The fact that I may have to change places with someone is a good way of introducing my difficulty.

3. It can help to find the best lighting conditions for you e.g. a light on the speaker’s face will be very helpful to you. 

4. Lighting is important if you need to lipread: 

One person said, “I ask if a light can be switched on if it is too dark. Most places I have asked have been happy to do this.”

Another said, “I sit near the source of light if the lights are dim. Though I try to avoid places with dim lighting if I have a choice.”

5. Some people said that they found it is usually best to avoid standing in the middle of the room because the noise and the voices will be all around them.

When there is noise coming from all sides it is usually much more difficult to distinguish the speech of the person talking to you. You could try to position yourself near the wall, preferably next to a curtain as it will absorb some of the echo and harsh sounds. Harsh and shiny surfaces reflect sounds and create echoes. Corners may be the quietest places. Some people find that that noisy middles of rooms makes them feel dizzy.

(Hard surfaces include glass, plaster, painted surfaces, wood, metal, etc. Absorbent surfaces include curtains, carpets, tapestry, soft furnishings and sound absorbent materials such as “Sound Sorba”.)  Usually hard, shiny surfaces make sound waves bounce off them, making echoes in the room.

6. Some people try to place themselves as far away as possible from the source of the music and other noises. This hopefully means there is less background noise to put up with.

7. Some people ask if the music can be turned down or off and explain the effects of noise e.g. “It’s difficult to talk”.  There will be quite a few hearing people who are also grateful. If it’s really noisy hearing people will be also having enormous difficulties and you may have the advantage if you are learning to lipread.

8. Several people said that they sit away from the catering area (or catering door) where there may be a lot of noise and movement of staff and kitchen noises coming through.

9. See whether it is possible to move into a quieter room to talk.

10. Some people may want to try this strategy: If the noise is really too much, then try to stay for a little while, and each time you go to a crowded room see if you can manage to stay a little longer. Unfortunately for some people, their type of hearing loss is such that they can never really stand it, in which case the solution might be to turn the hearing aid down.
Or some people may want to turn the hearing aid off and take the hearing aid out and lipread. Or some people may want to avoid such situations altogether.

11. One person said that at very noisy functions they leave the room, if possible, for very short periods of rest.  They find that this gives their ears a break and also their eyes if they’ve had to concentrate on lipreading.

12. One person said, “My motto is “Don’t panic,” because noise is always going to be a problem in large halls, because large bare halls will often have poor acoustics and be very noisy.  Also, peoples’ voices often get louder after a few drinks. I have a good look round and decide which strategies are going to be best for me.”

13.  One person said, “I don’t look forward to going to parties or places with lots of people, but my wife likes us to go occasionally to a family do.  I get through it by promising myself a treat soon after such as a day out fishing or a new plant for the garden, so I feel I’ve got something out of it.”
14. Some people find it useful to remember that many people without a hearing problem also loathe large parties.

15. Some people like to take a helper with them, who can make sure they are kept in the conversation.

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A.b. Choice of party/meeting, etc (Crowded rooms)

1. Some people choose to go to just the gatherings where they know that there will be people there that they know.

2. A lot of people find that smaller gatherings are better for communication than larger ones.

3. Some people find that cocktail parties are easier to manage than dinner parties because the talk is less serious. Other people find that dinner parties are easier providing that certain strategies are followed. (See dinner parties.)

4. One person said, “I try to avoid parties of four or more, but if I must attend, I try to take up an advantageous position, with the light coming from behind me, etc. I am as attentive as possible and make it show. I may not get much of a picture and it helps a great deal if I can take in the mood of a group and if it’s a happy one or otherwise. It is possible to enjoy the company even if I miss out on most of the conversation. I never, ever just sit bored. Nothing’s worse, I make an excuse and leave.”

5. One person said that they only go to parties where they can take a helpful friend or relative.

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A.c. Choice of person to talk to (Crowded rooms)

1. Some people say that they try to talk to only one person at a time and if that is not possible they talk to two.  Depending on their attitude, smaller groups are usually easier than large groups.

2. A lot of people find it helps to talk to someone that they know, and preferably someone they can understand.

3. One person said, “I look for a friendly, sympathetic person to talk to.”

4. One strategy might be to choose a lonely person or a person standing/sitting on their own to talk to on a one-to-one basis.  After all, you will be helping them to feel better.

5. One person said, “When the conversation gets boring I am not afraid to move on as if I’m not interested I find it more difficult to concentrate on the conversation.”

6. I ask the hostess to find someone I know. Or introduce me to a new person she feels may be helpful and/or shares the same interest or hobby with me. (It may help to have explained this to the hostess before the party.)

7. Look out for clear speakers and join them. Judge whether they are enjoying it and make your excuses if they are not.

One person said, “I stay with people who show that they really want to talk to me and who do not mind repeating themselves. Knowing what is said is better for me than being with a really interesting group knowing that I am missing a fascinating conversation.”

8. A friend or spouse relaying for me can be very helpful. I judge carefully how much they want to help. For some people helping a deaf person would make the party a more enjoyable experience, for others they would not enjoy it and so there is no point in encouraging them to stay with me. After all people who are not very helpful may be more helpful next time if they know they will not get tied down.

9. One person said, “I start off by talking to people I know. I go with someone I know if possible.”

10. This is a suggestion from a totally deafened person: When you enter a roomful of people, pause and scan their faces. If there is anyone you know (and like) go to him/her for conversation. If they are all strangers, avoid anyone with a beard or large moustache and anyone with thin lips. Having chosen who to talk to, approach them and say “I’m a stranger here and rather deaf – could we have a chat?” If he or she appears willing to try I steer them near a window if it’s daytime or a light if it’s evening and position myself so that the light is on their face. Choose a subject such as the person’s job, hobby or family. For people with normal hearing, the opening question is usually “Where do you live?”, but this is to be avoided as it will involve place names which may be difficult to lipread. If the person you’re talking to starts to fidget or conversation flags, don’t hesitate to move away tactfully. Then contact your host or hostess, who presumably will know you are deaf and ask them to introduce you to someone who they think may be sympathetic. It’s best if you can converse with one person only rather than get drawn into a group of people where the speakers are constantly changing and interrupting.

11. One person said, “Two is plenty: If I am at a party, I always look out for someone who is loose – I don’t mean in morals, that’s another matter – but in the sense of being detached from the crowd, then engage him or her in conversation. I can’t hear anything if I join one of the chatter circles. Even in a fairly noisy gathering, depending on your degree of deafness of course, it is often possible to hear someone standing right up to you. If you are feeling virtuous you may also reflect that by acting like this you will be helping to put at ease someone who is feeling shy or out of place.”

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A.d. Hearing aids and hearing strategies (Crowded rooms)

1. It may help to turn the aid down. If you have to turn the aid off, then, depending on your type of ear mould, you might find it better to remove the aid, otherwise you will have an ear plug and you will probably hear even less. Use lipreading to compensate for lost sounds. Also it is useful to realise that as the noise gets noisier so people tend to talk louder and for some deaf people that extra loudness makes all the difference.

2. Aids with forward facing microphones: some people may find it helps to face away from the crowd then hopefully they will mostly hear the person speaking.

Aids with directional microphone programmes:  Some digital aids have a programme that allow the user to switch to forward facing microphones only, which can help cut out background noise coming from behind. Somebody with this type of hearing aids said:

I find the directional microphone programme on my new aids very helpful once I’d worked out how to change the programme.  It doesn’t cut out all background noise, but it does help in some situations. 

Aids with backward facing microphones: It may help you to face in to the room because then your microphone will not be picking up so much background noise. If possible stand with your back to a curtain because otherwise the microphone will pick up the noise reflected off the walls.
However, there is no hard and fast rule, and the best thing is to experiment and see if you can find the best position through trial and error. What is best may be different in different rooms.

3. I try to always have my best ear nearest to the person I want to hear.

4. Some people find it helpful to explain to others that they have had to turn their hearing aid down or off because of the noise, as they may try harder to speak more clearly and slowly.

5. One person said, ” I try to be friendly with people, because the closer you are often the easier it is to hear.”

6. A hand cupping the ear can make a substantial difference to what some people hear and it need not be too obvious or if you think it will remind them to speak more clearly then be as obvious as you like.

7. Some people like to put themselves between the noise and the speaker so that the speech and the noise come from different directions.

8. When dining with several other people, one person said they take off their hearing aid and just gets on with eating,

BUT others say that taking their hearing aid(s) out would cut them off totally and so they don’t do it.

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A.e. Lipreading (Crowded rooms)

1. As well as all the usual skills and strategies you may need to use, you may find that you have to explain why you are looking so hard at people. One person said, “Especially if you are talking to someone’s partner!”

Another person said, “The fact that I have to concentrate very hard when lipreading can sometimes be misinterpreted as staring, so I always try and make it clear that I am deaf and need to lipread.It can help to say it in a jokey way.”

2. Some people turn the volume on their hearing aid down. This cuts out some of the background noise and they can then lipread as well as hear better.

See also Chapter 1, Section 12: Lipreading

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A.f.  Explanations and getting help (Crowded rooms)

Some people find that it often encourages the speaker to follow the rules of communication if the deaf person follows them.  (In other words it is much easier for the speaker to talk slower, face you, and keep a clear view of their mouth, etc, if you follow the rules yourself.)

1. Many people have found it helpful to explain that they are hard of hearing/deaf/hearing impaired/can’t hear very well (or whatever else you feel comfortable saying), and then explain how people can help them. E.g. “It helps me if I can see your face”, “Can you sit/stand on this side as it is my better ear”, “I can follow you if you speak a bit slower”, “I’ll manage if you speak clearly”, etc. Choose an explanation that you feel comfortable with.

2. Some people can be very helpful. Most people only remember that the listener is deaf for about two minutes or less. Many people will respond to comments given in an unembarrassed way with a smile or a laugh. For example, “Could you slow down?”, “I couldn’t see your face just then”, “Can you face me?”

3. Many people are helpful if asked. Very often people do not help, not because they are horrid but because they have forgotten that the person they are speaking to is deaf and needs slightly slower, clearer speech. Often, people prefer to be reminded because they would rather have a conversation which is meaningful because someone is listening. People often do not get cross if help is asked for in the right way.

4. You might find it helpful to think of yourself as an educator. Several people have found it helpful to light-heartedly let people know how tiring lipreading/listening are because of the words and sounds which look alike and sound alike and the background noise.

You could make a joke about hearing and lipreading something different from what they have said and laugh with them after all it is not your fault but the fault of the English language. You could explain that many words sound and look alike. For example MAIN and PAID look alike and to some people VIEW and FEW could sound alike.  

5. Encourage people to use natural expression and gesture. If family and friends learned finger spelling (and even some signs) they might be able to give you quite a lot of extra help.

6. One person found it helpful to put strangers in the picture by saying “Excuse me while I adjust my aid”.

7. Some people said that if they are the only deaf person in a group they ask people to face them because the others will hear.

8. I tell people if they are on my deaf side and we move so that they are on my good side.

9. I no longer feel embarrassed to change my hearing aid battery in public.