I Never Thought I Would Want to Do Jury Duty

File this under I guess you really do want what you can’t have. I never thought I would want to do jury duty, but I do. I recently received a summons for jury duty. The last time I received one several years ago, I was horrified. How would I get the time off work? Can I postpone? Can I get out of it? How can I be sure they won’t pick me for a jury?

This time I got the notice and realized it was not physically possible for me to sit on a jury. Even with my hearing aids, I couldn’t possibly hear well enough. I have trouble hearing in normal situations, unless the background noise is limited and people are facing me as they speak. Imagine a NYC courtroom – all wood and hard surfaces, lawyers pacing back and forth as they are talking with their backs to the jury much of the time, a mumbling defendant, jurors shifting in their seats, the incessant hum of the air conditioner or heater. Sounds like a recipe for disaster for anyone with hearing loss. I know I would not be able to hear all the important details of the case. I could not be responsible for someone’s fate without all the available facts. I could not be an effective juror.

I called my audiologist and she agreed that it would be very difficult for me to reliably hear in a courtroom situation. She wrote a letter for me to submit with my summons and I was excused from jury duty indefinitely. I should have been ecstatic, but I was crushed. This was the first time that I was not able to fulfill a responsibility or function because of my hearing loss. My guess is that it won’t be the last.

Readers, are you able to sit on a jury?

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?

Welcome to Living With Hearing Loss – a new blog for those living with hearing loss

Welcome to Living With Hearing Loss, a new blog for those living with hearing loss.  I have a genetic hearing loss that I first began to notice in my mid to late twenties. It has gotten progressively worse since then and I now wear hearing aids every day to hear better. I am lucky to have only mild tinnitus so far.

When you have hearing loss, it impacts your life almost every minute of every day. Whether it is trying to hear schedule announcements at the train station, watching TV, hearing the waiter discuss the specials at a restaurant, or talking with your children, having hearing loss makes everyday tasks more challenging. Socializing becomes less fun, particularly in settings with significant background noise. Movies and plays are harder to enjoy. Communication in general takes more effort and concentration than it does for those without hearing loss, and can sometimes be exhausting. Supportive family and friends are key, as is advocating for yourself. I have now begun to request quiet tables at restaurants and to remind friends to face me when they speak to me.

Being vocal about your hearing loss can make a big difference in enhancing communication and improving the quality of your life. I don’t want my hearing loss to define me, but I find that being open about it can help relieve the pressure of always having to hear everything perfectly.  I hope this blog will serve as an outlet for my experiences as well as a community for those dealing with similar issues.

Readers, how are you living with your hearing loss?