How To Survive & Thrive at Thanksgiving Dinner When You Have Hearing Loss

It’s that time of year again — Thanksgiving — so it is time for our annual Thanksgiving Post. Please enjoy this oldie but goodie from the archives. The points are as relevant as ever. I hope this helps you make the most of your upcoming holiday celebration. Happy Thanksgiving! 

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays — you get to eat, you get to spend time with family, and the leftovers are always a treat. But as my hearing loss has worsened over the years, I sometimes worry how it will all go. Will I be able to follow the conversation at the table? Will I be discounted because I can’t participate like I have in the past? Rather than wallow in fear, I put together these tips for tackling Thanksgiving dinner with a hearing loss. I hope they help you approach the holiday with more joy and less fear.

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

How To Survive & Thrive At Thanksgiving Dinner When You Have a Hearing Loss 

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 to continue the conversation when you have a chance to be closer together.

4.  Wear your hearing aids: Some 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.  Take a break: Don’t be shy about taking a break from the action for a few minutes to give your ears and brain a rest. Head to the restroom, or find a quiet spot in another room. Or go stand outside for a few minutes. It really helps me to clear my head and build up some energy for another round of socializing. Helping in the kitchen can also provide a nice break from the bigger group.

7.  Don’t fake it: It is very tempting to just nod along and pretend that 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 on both sides.

8.  Give visual clues to indicate if you are having trouble hearing: If you are having trouble hearing, you can cup your ear with your hand to indicate to the speaker to speak louder without interrupting the flow of the conversation. I have seen this in action and it is very effective.

9.  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 day. You might even suggest to the host that people rotate seats for dessert.

10.  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. Be sure to enjoy the moment.

Readers, what tips do you have for enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with a hearing loss?

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17 thoughts on “How To Survive & Thrive at Thanksgiving Dinner When You Have Hearing Loss

  1. Thank you Shari for the Oldie but Goodie. I enjoyed reading them once again. Although, I thinking of my family as relatively considerate, I am thinking of passing on your tips to them as a way of fostering “complete” understanding of what we experience!


  2. If I am hosting a table myself, I pretty much ignore all the rules about social seating and plan the entire table around what is optimal for me, and I tell each person, publically, why he or she is in the seat assigned. For example, “I can almost never hear Jenny, so she’s here by my ‘good’ ear” or, “I can always hear Keith–his voice is in my good hearing range–so I’ve put him over there.”


  3. Thank you for your words of advice. I have learned many things I never knew before reading your blog. It has helped with trying to explain to my family how I am feeling, and how they can help me.


  4. Hi Shari. Last Thanksgiving we were in a large group and understanding was difficult to the max. This year around the same table, the group will be half as large and I have a six month old CI which is making it easier to understand in most situations. It will be interesting AND easier to manage. I particularly like the post above where everyone was told where to sit to maximize the listening of the hose. That puts it right out front, doesn’t it? Have a safe and loving holiday weekend.


  5. Well, the food was fantastic and the fellowship was warm and cheerful. But understanding everyone was still a challenge. I don’t know what I expected but it was more than I got. I guess that will never change. Let’s just say it was another one of those lovely but tiring “learning experiences”. One member of the party never stopped talking and moved his head and arms erratically. it was at times comical and always distracting. However I was still able to make out essential parts of his discourse. I’m almost never around him so it isn’t a deal breaker. With the other people I was able to hold onto the sense of the conversation. It was work. It will always be work. And the holidays have only just begun. 🙂


    • There is no silver bullet unfortunately. I am glad you had some enjoyment from the day. I think we always need to keep our expectations in check, but never give up. Easier said than done. Hang in there and remember to take breaks when you need them. Thanks for sharing your experiences with all of us.


  6. We usually host Thanksgiving at our house. I put a large area rug in our dining room to help with any reverberation, and we kept the TV off or at a low volume for the kids. I find that sitting in the center of the table with my back to a wall is much better at helping with speech in noise than my fancy hearing aids could ever be. All in all, this was a successful holiday for me. I was able to keep up with the conversations and enjoy food and family.


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