By Janick Hickman, Assistant Director of Educational Programs; Mental Health Counselor, CHC-FL
Valentine’s Day is around the corner! Romance and love are in bloom. Dates can be nerve-racking on this special night when expectations, large crowds and worry can increase stress. And when you're on a date with someone with hearing loss and you want to make the best impression possible, the stress can feel like it's multiplied.
Your date has likely been successfully navigating the hearing world for years; but what a kind gesture to show them that you are mindful of their needs and interested in having every opportunity to get to know them.
Below are a few things to consider before you head out with your special someone.
Check in with your date to see the kinds of places they would most like to go given their communication needs.
Be willing to repeat or restate something you’ve said. Face your date when communicating and be mindful not to chew while speaking.
Speech-to-text apps such as Ava and Google Live Transcribe (in quiet environments) and texting (in noisy environments) can support communication efforts as well.
If you're engaged in a conversation with a third party, do your best to incorporate your date into that discussion (e.g., ask the speaker to face your date and if you notice your date is having difficulty following the conversation, offer to repeat what was said). It's always a good idea to avoid telling them “it wasn’t important,” “don’t worry, I’ll tell you later.” The person may feel belittled by this.
Lighting and Background Noise
Any location that has dim lighting (e.g., movie theatres and certain restaurants) will reduce your date’s ability to see your mouth (i.e., lip cues) and facial expressions. These help to reinforce the understanding of what is being said or signed.
Too much background noise creates a distraction from what you are saying and muffles words.
Consider staying in and having date night at home. There you have control of the lighting and background noise. Just remember, never try to have a conversation with your date if you are in different rooms.
Catching a Movie
If you're planning to go out to see a movie, you may want to call the theater ahead to ensure they have closed captioning devices (if that is an accommodation your date would like). Be sure to get confirmation that the devices are charged and working. Even better, find a movie showing that offers open captioning on the screen.
If you are staying in to watch a film or show, turn on the closed captioning. This feature can be readily found through the device and/or through the streaming service.
Let your date pick their preferred seating for optimal communication and engagement. This means that depending on the environment, they may choose to sit opposite you or sit with you seated on the side with better hearing.
You've Got This
I hope you find these tips helpful. The tools I've shared will give you both the opportunity to develop a rapport, build a connection, and have a great time together.
Happy Valentine’s Day! You’ve got this.
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