With 2020 finally coming to an end and the holidays upon us, we find ourselves in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime situation. Many families will be gathering online using video conferencing technologies, adapting their unique traditions in creative ways to meet the needs of this unprecedented moment. As long as internet connections function well enough, those of us who wear hearing aids should be able to patch in via Bluetooth, telecoil or FM to make our hearing loss a minor issue, but there will be other things to keep in mind as we connect with the people we love.

Make Expectations Clear>

With people meeting over a distance, the schedule of events should be perfectly clear beforehand./p>

If you’re planning to eat together, a lot of coordination will be required to have separate meals ready at the same time. If you’re meeting online after lunch or dinner, you’ll need to make sure you’re on the same page about when that will be. Younger couples often have two or more different family traditions to engage with, and though technology makes it possible, back-to-back video conferences aren’t always the most rewarding.

For a festive way to plan your online gatherings, try creating a printable event program that can go on the fridge. Clearly define the beginnings and endings of video conferences and describe what will happen during each one, like dinner or opening gifts.

Trial Run

If you have family members who aren’t familiar with video conferencing technology but plan to use it with you over the holidays, test it out in advance so you can be reasonably sure that everyone has what they need to participate and they are comfortable enough to use it when the time comes. Make sure not only that the connections are working, but that you all have adequate lighting in the area you plan to hold your meeting. This will provide everyone a little peace of mind and ensure things go smoothly when it counts.

Keep Your Traditions Alive/h2>

Rather than setting them aside, try to think of ways you can adapt your usual traditions for the video conference. With good internet connections, it’s possible to watch a movie together remotely. The more participants there are on a video call, the more difficult it becomes for each person to speak, so it can be good to have a moderator who reads text comments from others.

If you like board games, there are virtual versions of most any game that you can play online together. Zoom’s whiteboard feature also offers an excellent opportunity to play pictionary!

Accommodate Everyone’s Needs

Video conferences can be difficult or tedious for those with autism, ADHD or other disorders that affect communication. Talk to these family members beforehand to see what they’re interested in. If they’re only going to be on the call for a short while, plan to do something they’ll appreciate more during the time they’re with you.

ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) recommends enabling closed captioning for the hard of hearing. Remind everyone to use the largest screen they can for the meeting; smartphone screens can be difficult to focus on for too long, and are not as hands-free as laptops.

Use Digital Backgrounds

There are lots of fun backgrounds out there that can brighten up the scene for you and your loved ones. You don’t have to be seated at your kitchen table; you could be seated in the desert, or antarctica! Have fun!

Give Communication Gifts In Advance

There are some great gift options for those who have hearing issues, whether for those who wear hearing aids and could use some help integrating them with other technologies, or for those who don’t yet wear hearing aids but need hearing assistance. A few ideas include:

  • TV adapters and amplification systems – allows independent amplification of TV levels directly to hearing aids
  • Phones and phone accessories – Bluetooth-capable phones, or phones with extra amplification
  • Hearing aid supplies or accessories like dehumidifiers

While it might take some of the excitement out of the moment, if you’re planning to give a loved one a gift that could improve their communication ability, by all means send it before your holiday video conferences so they can get acquainted with it and be able to enjoy your time together even more!