Hearing Loss & Thanksgiving: A Recipe for Success

Thanksgiving is a time to join with family and friends to express gratitude for the many joys in our lives. For people with hearing loss, it can also often be fraught with anxiety. Will we be able to follow the dinner conversation and partake in the merriment? Will we be exhausted from all the listening fatigue? Will we remain a relevant and important part of the family dynamic?

My family usually heads out of town for Thanksgiving, but this year we are hosting! Sleeping all eight of us in a Manhattan apartment will make for tight quarters, but I am looking forward to the challenge. I have ceded control of the cooking to my mother-in-law, so my focus will be on setting the table, arranging the seating, and creating the perfect hearing friendly atmosphere — a great role for someone with hearing loss.

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

Setting A Hearing Friendly Table for Thanksgiving

This year I am in control, so implementing a hearing friendly Thanksgiving table will be easier. If you are a guest somewhere else, reach out to your host at least a week before the event to see if any of my site specific suggestions can be implemented in their home. Most people will try to be as hospitable as possible if you approach them in advance with reasonable and specific requests.

1. Keep the noise down and the lights up. Background noise makes it hard to follow conversation for people with hearing loss. Since it is my house, it will be easy for me to avoid playing music, but if you are dining elsewhere, don’t be shy about asking for the music to be lowered for dinnertime. Adequate light is needed for lipreading, so no overly dim lighting for our festivities.

2. Place myself in the center of the table. This will allow me to be physically closest to as many people as possible. I will seat those hardest for me to hear directly across from me to make lipreading easier.

3. Wear my hearing aids. The buzz of conversation can be loud, but I will still likely do better if I wear my hearing aids. At a large party, other technologies like Roger pens or speech to text apps like Live Transcribe can also be helpful.

4. Take breaks. Even with all my planning, listening fatigue is likely to set in at some point. Escaping the din for a few moments as needed will help rest my brain and let me regroup for more listening at a later time.

5. Use visual cues. If you are having trouble hearing, cupping your hand behind your ear is a great way to get the speaker to speak louder without interrupting the flow of the conversation.

6. Practice self-care. The holidays can be exhausting for everyone so keeping healthy and maintaining your self-care regimen is critical. For me, this means finding time each day for yoga or meditation. For others it might be taking a warm bath, or enjoying a cup of coffee in much needed silence.

7. Have reasonable expectations. Hearing a group conversation at a large table is almost impossible for many people with hearing loss. Focus on conversing with those seated next to you and talk with others seated farther away at a later time.

8. Smile and enjoy. Despite the challenges of a group dinner, try to approach the event with optimism and joy. Focus on what you are grateful for from the past year. Try to enjoy the special time with family and friends, even if you don’t catch every word they are saying.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers! I am grateful for your ideas, encouragement and all your comments and discussion on my weekly blog posts. I am so proud of the warm and engaging community we have created together.

Readers, what hearing friendly strategies do you use at a large family dinners?

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24 thoughts on “Hearing Loss & Thanksgiving: A Recipe for Success

  1. Shari,

    First of all, I am thankful for people like yourself who advocate so much for the HOH. Thanks for the tips. I will bring it along with me to my in-laws in Scranton as we fit 20, mostly adults, into a small Sears catalog house from the 20’s!

    Have a great Thanksgiving.


  2. Lots of good suggestions Shari. I would, however, change that table layout so that there are 2 seats at each end and 3 each side. I prefer a group of 6 as I can then see everyone and there is usually only one conversation going on. Groups of 8 and more creates more conversations going on at the same
    time! Also if I was choosing a venue, carpet and soft furnishings reduce the noise levels. I sometimes take one hearing aid out if it’s really noisy.

  3. Have you discovered or tried the Bose Hearphone? I have a moderately severe, per my audiologist, or pretty severe per my ENT, bilateral hearing loss. For me, the discovery of this device has been a miracle. It pairs with my iPhone and you can dampen sound behind you and focus it to hear narrowly (think of a table for 2), 180 degrees (thin table of 4 or larger, or a round table). The sound quality is much crisper than my very very expensive hearing aids. While wearing this device I can hear it loud parties, at the table at bar mitzvahs or weddings, and even book club discussions of 16+ people without always having to ask people to repeat or speak louder. It has a 30 day moneyback no questions asked policy. it is a rubber collar with wires that go up to earbuds that go in the ear. Obviously you take hearing aids out. people assume you are wearing a necklace or are listening to music or a podcast. I have been wearing it for two years in social settings and nobody has thought it is a hearing device. My audiologist has told clients about it and some love it while for others it has not worked. I have three friends who have bought it and consider it to have transformed their lives. One friend who bought it last year in time for Thanksgiving said she was able to follow dinner conversation at the table for the first time in years, and the Bose store sales person showed her how to adjust the bass and treble to better pick up her grandchildren’s voices. Bose stores are not everywhere, but there are in Manhattan, and it can be bought on their website.

    • Bose HEARPHONES…Works better than any hearing aids I’ve ever used. Have one here phone since December 2018. I will never go back to wearing my hearing aids. Technically here phones, not a hearing aid. In fact, what was the release actual hearing aids in 2020. Best $500 I’ve ever spent. Unbelievable ways of adjusting trouble, bass and volume… no need to be adjusted by audiologist..

  4. Thank you Shari for your thanksgiving blog and 8 suggestions for hearing success. For suggestion 9, just bought thanksgiving place cards at $dollar store to strategically arrange the guests /voices / children around the table. This is my first thanksgiving with hearing aids. Looking forward to hearing most of the conversation I had been missing the past few years!

  5. Lots of plush pillows, carpet, low ceilings, for improved acoustics.

    Round tables are THE BEST!

    Most families do not have such tables.

    Round tables enable everyone to see each other’s faces…thus improving comprehension and flow of conversation.

  6. The lecture series I’m part of has round tables for 10 during lunch. Because my problem is severe distortion more than simply not hearing, I usually can’t understand more than an occasional word, just enough to make me wish I could hear more! I’m going to give my new Samsung phone and Live Transcribe a chance to see if that can help, but tests at home with the TV have been disappointing. I have a mic, so will try to pair it with the Samsung. Still, having a mic and/or phone/tablet on the table isn’t easy as I always fear someone spilling when they pour water. Otherwise, the room is carpeted, with thick tablecloths, about a 12′ ceiling. Thanksgiving will just be the two of us, although I’ll fight hard to make my other half join me at the table for a change.

  7. Thank you for these suggestion. This is the first year I am hosting a gathering at my home with being diagnosed as HOH. I am rearrange the seating area now and changing the lights to be a little brighter than what I have as this will help me to lip read.

  8. […] Although the article notes Thanksgiving as a common gathering that can give all of us with hearing loss communication fits, the article really makes sense for any social and holiday gathering. Giving yourself breaks, compassion, and using certain strategic ways to effectively communicate and enjoy the gathering can help make your family and holiday get-together that much more enjoyable. Learn tips and strategies with this article. […]

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