Tips to Help Loved Ones with Hearing Loss at Thanksgiving

American Speech-Language Hearing Association
(Isaac Hale, Daily Herald | Isaac Hale/The Daily Herald via AP, File)
Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 3:01 PM CST
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SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (KNEP) - As many extended families prepare to gather for their first Thanksgiving dinner since the pandemic began, some may notice a loved one is struggling to understand or follow the conversation because they are hard of hearing.

More than 48 million Americans have hearing loss. A recent national poll from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and YouGov found that almost half of American adults (46%) say they have a close family member or other loved one who has difficulty hearing.

This holiday season is a chance to reconnect for many families after missing celebrations last year. Experts at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) are offering advice on how to help loved ones with hearing difficulties more fully participate in these gatherings:

· Reduce background noise. Competing noise from the television or radio can make it more difficult to hear.

· Take turns while talking. It can be challenging to follow the conversation when multiple people are speaking at once. Encourage everyone to adopt this practice.

· Speak clearly, but don’t shout. Louder isn’t necessarily clearer—and nobody likes to be yelled at when they’re trying to enjoy themselves.

· Face your loved one directly as you speak. Don’t turn your back on your conversation partner or shout from another room. People often need to see your lips and facial expressions to understand what you’re saying.

· Use good lighting. A dim room will limit the visual cues (e.g., mouth movements) that people with hearing difficulties often use to help them decipher what someone is saying.

· Be patient. Try not to get annoyed if you must repeat your message. If someone doesn’t understand you the first time, rephrase what you said. Don’t give up on communicating!

· Seat guests strategically. Arrange the dinner table with conversation in mind. Seat the person with hearing difficulty next to someone who will help keep them involved.

· Understand the impact of masks. Some family members may choose to wear masks while not actively eating. Although masks are an important protective measure against COVID-19, they can dampen sound and make communication more difficult. Find tips to help here.

· Learn the signs of hearing loss. These include raising the TV volume beyond what’s comfortable for others, frequently requiring speech to be repeated, and seeming irritable or withdrawn.

· Encourage your loved one to seek help. A person might not think their hearing is that bad or that they’re getting by just fine. But many people underestimate their level of hearing trouble and how it’s affecting other aspects of their lives. Be gentle but persistent. Let them know you’re concerned, that treatment can improve their lives immensely, and that you can help them.

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