Are you in a book club? If you’re hard of hearing, the answer may be no. Even a hearing book club member may miss a lot of the discussion.
An estimated five million Americans are in book clubs,some of them are in more than one. I know people in couples’ book clubs, mother-daughter book clubs, all female or all male book clubs, history book clubs, biography book clubs. You name it.
Book clubs average anywhere between five and twenty members, a size that poses a difficulty for most people with moderate to severe hearing loss. Even with hearing aids or a cochlear implant, it may be difficult to hear in a group this size. But there are strategies and tools that can help you participate fully.
Here are some tips.
*Seat yourself near the center of the group, remind people of your hearing loss, and ask them to speak one at a time. Remind them when they forget. Then remind them again. And again.
*Establish a group leader. In my book club, that person designates herself the “Conversation Monitor.” (She actually refers to herself more crudely, but you get the idea.) Her role is to make sure that people speak one at a time, that no one dominates the conversation, that the group doesn’t roam too far off topic.
*Choose your own personal interpreter. Have a pen and paper available: You write: “She did what?” your interpreter answers: “She married him” You may have been pretty sure you’d heard “she buried him,” but figured it was an unlikely plot twist.
*Voice to text software. Examples of this, which is sometimes called speech recognition software, include Siri and Dragon Dictation. A new app, called Ava, shows great promise in using voice-to-text software to help those with hearing problems follow a conversation. Some friends and I were beta testers and used it successfully with four people, although it can be used for a group of six to eight. The app assigns each person a color, and each time they speak, their color-coded words plus their photo or the first initial of their name show up on every participant’s phone. The app can be restarted with a whole new group the next time you want to use it.The app’s founder says it’s still several months away from being on the market. When it is, it will be available on the Apple Store and Google Play.
There’s a reason five million Americans are in book clubs. They’re fun, they’re educational, they’re a great way to socialize and do something constructive at the same time. Don’t let hearing loss deter you.
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