It’s Thanksgiving, the beginning of the holiday season. In rapid succession come Christmas and Hannukah, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, not to mention office parties. Like many with hearing loss, I approach the holidays with some trepidation. The most difficult situation for me is a large holiday dinner.
Here’s my advice. Practice a little TLC.
T is for Technology
Assistive Listening Devices. Use them! These can be something as simple as a Williams Sound Pocket Talker or as sophisticated as a Phonak Roger system with multiple microphones.
The Pocket Talker is an amplifier with a microphone. The listener uses earbuds or a headset. It won’t allow you to hear the conversation at the other end of the table but if your neighbors speak into the microphone, you will hear them better These are available at many outlets. Amazon.com lists them at $138.95. The Pocket Talker works with two AAA batteries.
Your IPhone can act as an assistive listening device, using a detachable mic and wired headphones or earbuds with a downloaded app. My favorite tech guru Richard Einhorn recommends quality earphones or headphones. (You’ll probably have to pay $75 or so.) Richard also recommends the Jacoti ListenAPP or EarMachine. The external mic situation is in flux. Try a few and see what works best for you. Best Buy and other electronics stores should have options. Android phones have been slow to keep up with IOS systems. Try the Google Pixel 2, though I don’t know anyone who has used it, so can’t recommend.
If you’d rather have instant captions, try HearFree, also an IPhone app, and as the name says it’s free. It’s surprisingly accurate although if it’s a noisy room, the speaker will have to hold the mic close to his mouth. You can also use systems like Dragon Dictation.
Don’t forget the most basic tech fix of all: a pen and paper.
L is for Location.
The best location for a person with hearing loss depends on the nature of their hearing.
I hear better from my right ear, for instance, so I try to position myself with at least one strong voice to my right. That way I can ask that person what was said.
For others, sitting at the center of the table may allow them to hear the whole table better.
If there’s background music, sit as far from the speakers as possible, or ask the host to turn the music down — or, preferably, off.
If you end up in a particularly noisy spot, ask if you can change seats with someone. Often the easiest time to do this is between courses, or before dessert. Some hosts move guests around at a dessert as a matter of course, a social tradition that can be useful for the hard of hearing.
C is for Care.
There are lots of ways the word Care should be part of your Thanksgiving TLC.
First, take care in how you listen. I think of this as mindful listening. As I wrote in an earlier post, “Watch the impulse to say What? or ‘Huh? Think before you respond. What’s the context of the conversation? What parts of the sentence did you get? Is there a logical missing word? We always tell people with hearing loss not to pretend they’ve heard, not to guess. But guessing can be an effective strategy for getting someone to repeat in a way that makes the whole sentence comprehensible.”
In other words, when asking what was said, you’ll get a much more helpful response if instead of “What?” You ask “Did he say this butter is made in Mongolia?”
Take care of others. There a few things more emotionally rewarding than doing for someone else. Volunteer to serve dinner at a homeless shelter. Invite friends who may not have anywhere else go. I always like to include people newly arrived in America, who don’t know much about Thanksgiving. Often these are friends of my children’s, whose social network is much farther flung than mine.
Take care of yourself. When it gets too noisy, take a break in another room. Help serve and clear the table. Wash some dishes. Play with the baby. Go home early if you have to.
The T could also stand for Thankful. I hate to sound sentimental, but remember to be thankful for what you do have, rather than making yourself miserable about what you don’t, like good hearing.
For other observations about coping with the holidays, a hardy perennial for us bloggers, here are a few other posts from, in order, me, Shari Eberts, Ruth Bernstein, Arlene Romoff, and Gael Hannan: Holiday Hearing: You Can Do It; How to Enjoy Thanksgiving with a Hearing Loss; Holiday Madness; Hearing Tips for Happier Holidays; Happy Holidays for HOH’s.
For more on living with hearing loss see my books “Shouting Won’t Help” and Living Better With Hearing Loss, available Amazon.com.