As much as we love getting together with our loved ones for holiday festivities, it can be a real struggle to make out conversations in noisy places. And for the more than 15 percent of Americans who already have trouble hearing, the effort can be downright exhausting. To hear better at this year’s get-togethers, experts suggest the following tips.
Sit in a Soft Corner
More than half of people with perfectly normal hearing have trouble following conversations in loud, crowded rooms, says otolaryngologist Paul Mitchell, M.D. A simple fix? Opt for a seat in a corner or with your back to a wall to ensure that background chatter reaches your ears from fewer directions. That way, you’ll be able to hear the person you’re talking to more easily. Even better, sit on a couch, which helps absorb distracting ambient noise.
Turn Just ‘Right’
The old trick of cupping your ear like a trumpet really works: In fact, it boosts volume by 34 percent. To catch a punchline in a noisy room, turn your right ear toward the speaker. According to British neurologists, this simple shift can help you hear 20 percent more clearly. That’s because sounds that go into your right ear are processed by the left side of your brain — the side that’s great at understanding language!
Circulate Around the Room
The brain cells that help you figure out what people are saying — and block out background chatter — need a steady trickle of oxygen-rich blood to function at their peak. Walking around, ideally for 15 minutes or more, is the easiest way to get that boost. Three studies suggest regularly moving your hips and legs is so effective at shuttling blood toward your brain’s hearing center, it can help you carry on lively conversations as easily as you did 12 years ago!
Give Your Ears a Good Cleaning
You’re five times more likely to get ear wax buildup after age 40, which makes voices faint and fuzzy, says otolaryngologist Ken Toba, M.D. Thankfully, the problem is easy to treat with warm mineral oil ($8.10, Amazon). Simply lie on one side, place five drops in your ear, rest, drain and repeat on the other side. Do this once daily for five days to keep wax in check for two months.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
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