How To Enjoy Thanksgiving When You Have Hearing Loss

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays — delicious food, good spirits and lively gatherings of family and friends. But with my hearing loss, I sometimes worry I will miss out on some of the fun. Large dining room tables make conversation tricky, especially, like in my family, if everyone is talking at once. Background chatter combined with noise from the football games on television add to the overall din, making it a tough listening situation. What is a person with hearing loss to do?

Thanksgiving with hearing loss

Background noise can make for a tough listening situation. Don't let the noise defeat you!

Tips for better communication at Thanksgiving

  1. Talk to your host in advance: Discuss your hearing issues with your host a week before Thanksgiving so she has time to accommodate your needs. Request to be seated in the middle of the table and with your back to a wall. The more specific you are, the better seat you will get.
  2. Limit background noise: When I host, background music is kept to a minimum. While your host may like to play music or keep the TV on for the game, perhaps you can ask him or her to reduce the volume during dinner.
  3. Converse strategically: Don’t try to participate in conversations across large distances. Speak with the people seated near you at the table. If you want to speak with someone else, move nearer to him, or ask to continue the conversation when you have a chance to be closer together.
  4. Optimize your hearing aids: Many hearing aids have special settings for restaurants or other loud places. Experiment with a couple of different settings to find what is optimal. You can practice at home if you don’t want to spend time experimenting at the event.
  5. Try new technologies: Many gadgets are now available that can help you hear in a group setting including personal FM systems, Roger pens, or even chair loops. Experimenting with new technology can be fun for everyone.
  6. Be kind to yourself: Take breaks to minimize hearing loss exhaustion. Head to the restroom, or find a quiet spot in another room or outside. Breaks give your ears and brain a rest and build your energy for more socializing.
  7. Don’t fake it: It can be tempting to nod along and pretend you hear what others are saying or laugh just because others are laughing. But it can be dangerous, particularly if someone is asking you a question. Be brave and be honest with others if you are having trouble hearing. It will make your interactions more memorable for everyone.
  8. Use visual clues to indicate if you are having trouble hearing: Cupping your ear with your hand to indicate to the speaker to speak louder works well and does not interrupt the flow of the conversation for others.
  9. Laugh at the mishearings: It is inevitable that you will hear something incorrectly or reply to a question you thought you heard rather than the actual question. Bring your sense of humor and others will too. Sometimes these misfires can be hilarious.

And most importantly, enjoy the moment! It can be hard to keep it all in perspective during the holidays if you feel like you are missing out on the fun. Try to be grateful for the wonderful friends and family around you. You may not hear every word they say, but you can partake in all of the good feelings around the table. Happy Thanksgiving!