I always go to my in-laws for Thanksgiving, which is a lot of fun. It is a big group event, with lots of cousins, grown children and seniors. We can sometimes have up to 20 at any given Thanksgiving family meal. There is a lot of energy, but also a lot of noise, with people all talking at once and kids laughing and joking in the background. This is a great recipe for family fun, unless you have a hearing loss. The general noise level makes it hard to hear, and the multiple conversations going at once, makes it hard to follow any of them. Older men often speak very quietly (at least it seems that way to me!) Plus, children can be notoriously difficult to hear, and rarely remember to look at you when they are talking.
But let’s NOT let this be a recipe for disaster! I have been thinking about how to make the most of the holiday and these are my tips. I hope they help. Please let me know your suggestions in the comments.
Living With Hearing Loss’s Tips to Survive and Thrive at Thanksgiving Dinner
1. Sit in a good spot: For me, it is very helpful if I have a wall behind me and am seated more in the middle of the table. This gives me a better shot at hearing more conversation and not being distracted by background noise behind me. Maybe you have a spot you like better. Don’t be shy about talking to the host so that your seat is in an opportune spot for you.
2. Keep background noise down if possible: I try to keep any background music to a minimum. While your host, may like to play music a little more loudly, perhaps you can ask him or her to keep the volume low during dinner.
3. Converse with those next to you: Don’t try to participate in conversations across large distances. If you would like to talk with someone, move closer to him, or ask that you continue the conversation when you have a chance to be closer together.
4. Wear your hearing aids: Many of us hate to wear our hearing aids, but they really can help. Experiment with a couple of different settings to find what is optimal. You can even practice at home if you don’t want to spend time experimenting at the event.
5. Try other technologies: There are many new technologies now available that can help you hear in a group setting including personal FM systems or other one to one communication devices. Some of my friends swear by these.
6. Have reasonable expectations: You probably won’t hear everything that everyone says, but that is ok. Enjoy talking to the people near you, then seek out others to talk with during other parts of the party. You might even suggest to the host that people rotate seats for desert.
7. Bring your sense of humor: It can be hard to keep it all in perspective during the holidays when you feel like you are missing out on the fun, but try to laugh a little and 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. Try to enjoy the moment.
Readers, do you have any tips for tackling Thanksgiving dinner when you have a hearing loss?
Written by: Sheri Eberts at livingwithhearingloss.com
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Jamie Martin, NBC-HIS