How to Tackle Thanksgiving Dinner When You Have Hearing Loss

A few months ago, I started a blog Living With Hearing Loss, but It has been a while since my last post. I find it unsettling to talk about my hearing loss, maybe that is why. But as Thanksgiving approaches, I thought it was time to post again, as there might be others out there with hearing loss worrying about the upcoming holiday. Maybe reading this post will help them approach the holiday with more joy and less fear. I hope so.

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?

21 thoughts on “How to Tackle Thanksgiving Dinner When You Have Hearing Loss

    • These tips are pretty good. As someone who is SSD…..single sided deaf, I can empathize with the situation and the tips. Controlling background noise is a real key as conversations you want yo hear, get drowned by background noise. background music may be good in a restaurant but for those of us hearing impaired it is a problem.

      As someone who has worn a baha for five years I have found that casually leaning my good ear on my hand to partially pinch closed my good ear filters out a lot of background noise and allows my receiver to better capture the conversation I want to hear. My says I have become so adept at it she often does not even realize I am doing it.

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  1. Having wearing hearing aids since the age of 4 – I agree about young children and softspoken people. I have noticed that all my close friends and significant others have been loud or have voices that carry well. I think it can be tricky in group situations, and I have be in situations before where others didn’t know I was hearing impaired at all; and have even been told I came off as snobby or “b*tchy” but once they got to know me more one on one, they always tell me they were surprised that I actually wasn’t. And usually it’s because of being in a group setting. I also do not have any speech issues, because my parents put me in speech therapy, and do speak like a deaf or HOH person, so there are no clues,because I also have long hair. Good advice on trying to talk to those next to you, and not across the room or table. It also helps to be in the middle (I always request this in most situations). Another advice, is smile, and DO NOT act like you know what they are saying, because they could be asking you a question, and you aren’t answering. Happened before. Also, it helps if you adjust your hearing aids – some come with background noise reduction settings, or you can turn up the volume, or whatever works for you, but please wear them. It makes it more pleasant for not only you, but those around you. And no one wants to repeat themselves ten times, and hear, “WHAT?” come out of your mouth more than that! You could even make some gesturing motions, such as leaning your one ear towards a person you are unable to hear and cup that ear, so that they know you are having heard listening/hearing, and giving a non-verbal cue without interrupting.

    Good tips. I look forward to more blog entries. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. hi there thank you so much for this very lovely information I am also suffering a hearing loss and tinnitus both my ears for the past 3 years now. but I don’t loss hope for the mighty Jesus Christ help me and heal me soon.. regards. Jason Dubai UAE

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  3. Thank you. I appreciate the advice, which also applies to having meals out with colleagues as part of work expectations. I’d also add the advice to step away and take a quiet break periodically. I find that ambient noise can be very stressful, and added to the strain of not being able to hear, it can all take a toll on my emotional patience.

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  4. I especially love #7: Bring your sense of humor!
    My son’s girlfriend was visiting us a few months ago and she’d never eaten a family meal with us before. Halfway through the meal when I’d misunderstood something she said and answered in a completely ridiculous way that didn’t have anything to do with what she said there was some snickering and laughter from the family, as usual. I blurted out, “Has anyone told this girl your momma is deaf, for crying out loud?!” Honestly, she thought it was so brave and funny and honest. I learned a long time ago that laughing at myself helps to keep us all in an attitude of fun. It took me a long time to get to this place, though. I wish I’d learned how to do it early in life. Love your posts.

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  5. LOSS OF HEARING is the loss of one of your five senses and it un-centers a person by having to strain to hear… and yes, it WILL wear you out…so watch the emotional impatience….> If the other guy thinks they have it bad, suggest they stick one finger in their ear for 5 minutes and try to join the conversation!!! Then time them for fun. You’ll see their eyes slowly widen at their hearing loss….. An Ah ha moment if there ever was one.

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    • I actually have a friend who wanted to know what it might be like to walk in my shoes. She’s an RN in a dialysis center. One day, she borrowed her husband’s ear plugs that he uses when he goes hunting. She put them in her ears and went to work telling her co-workers what she was doing. As the day went on, she realized she began to rely more on her visual senses to help her know when someone was near her or approaching. (This is where it gets even harder for someone like me…I lost my left eye in an accident as a child. I wear a prosthesis. So not only do I have severe hearing loss, but I don’t have the depth perception or the peripheral vision that others might have with hearing loss.) This is the only friend who has ever done anything like this for me. I’ve often said that everyone should try plugging their ears for a day, but no one really seems to want try which tells me they value their hearing an awful, awful lot.

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  6. Reblogged this on The Souzapalooza Blog and commented:
    Today’s guest post is from Shari. I consistently read Shari’s Bikram Yoga blog, Hot Off The Mat, however she has another blog, Living With Hearing Loss, from which today’s post is from. Both my parents have a for of hearing loss; my father has tinnitus from years of working around construction equipment and machinery and my mother has loss in her right ear from complications with an illness in her late teens. It can be easy to forget that they do not hear as well as I do and often find the need to repeat myself or speak slower and clearer. This post provides some strategies for those with hearing loss to deal with large family gatherings during the holidays. Although it is aimed to those with hearing loss, I think these are good tips for all of trying to interact with large groups. Let Shari and I know your thoughts, and be sure for visit both her blogs for other great posts!

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