Connections Personal advocacy

Playing Games with Hearing Loss

It’s easy to feel lost while playing games with a hearing loss. Chatter goes fast and it’s easy to miss what’s being said. Today, we give you tips to make playing games with family and friends easier.

Family Time

Chelle: We are a game playing family. I learned Cribbage as a kid from my parents and watched their late night games with friends. As a teenager, my friends and I had intense, late night games of UNO at my house, then later Skip-Bo. In my 20’s someone introduced me to Phase 10. In my 30’s Apples to Apples came around where my kids began to understand each other’s thinking. In my 40’s my kids introduced me to Cards Against Humanity and we bought other similar card games. A few weeks ago, I introduced my kids to Tenzi, a fast rolling dice game.

In Cribbage, I can keep count with others. (I don’t know enough people who play unfortunately.) UNO is easy to follow along without hearing. Apples to Apples has single words which is harder. The kids read the word for each other and then handed me the card to read. Cards Against Humanity works the same way. I tend to give myself away when I ask to read the other players cards at judgement time. My kids work with me well, I’m lucky. Or maybe it’s good training? 

My grandkids are learning to love games too so we are back to playing Apples to Apples. They also show me the card so I can read it.

Tenzi, a Dice Game
Tenzi is a dice game in which the HoH have an advantage. The noise of throwing dice is not a distraction.
Tenzi, a great game where hearing loss is not an issue.

Tenzi is another great game for the HoH and I have an edge because the noise of rolling 10 dice as fast as we can doesn’t distract me. I learned this game through Deaf friends who did not yell out “Tenzi” when all 10 dice were the same number. Instead, they pounded a fist on the table so everyone knew the round was done. With the kids, we yelled out “Tenzi”. Sometimes we yelled “Yahtzee” too. 

When things get going and a few drinks have been consumed, my kids start talking faster. I’ll stick my arm in the middle of things and say, “Wait up, what was that?” One of them will repeat what was said keeping me included. It is my responsibility to let them know when I want a repeat. 

It also gets loud. My mom and my husband will go to another room. The kids grew up with my hearing loss so I think they are loud for me, which works great in my opinion. That’s our life! And we have a lot of fun.

Cranium, a Game

Michele: Cranium was always a favorite game, but it is challenging now that I can no longer hear speech (some tasks require you to hear your teammates humming a song), but we find workarounds. Charades-like games have become impossible and I usually opt out. I can still play Trivial Pursuit if the person reading the card hands me the card to read for myself.

Cribbage is played almost daily at our house. My husband (he works from home) and I play during his lunch break. Another favorite is Dominos (Mexican Train), adults and kids alike. Both games are good for strengthening your math skills.

Go Fish

Games with my granddaughter Ayla began early. I still keep a Go Fish deck in my purse or car. My daughter and I had a weekly meet-up for breakfast. Once my daughter left for work, Ayla and I would hang out and play games until the library opened at ten o’clock. After story time for preschoolers, we would then go to my house where she would spend a night or two. More games and cards!

My family accommodates me fairly well (some are better than others), and if I need to see something that is being read, I ask to read for myself. When playing Go Fish, Ayla knows not to ask for a certain card using one word. She says my name first, and if she forgets I remind her. Hearing numbers can be a challenge, so asking by the type of fish (the cards have fish characters on them) is better. 

State Your Communication Needs.
A blond haired boy sitting on a stool smiling, holding up his card for all of us to read.  A dark haired woman sitting beside him with her glasses on, looking down at the cards on the table.  Apples to Apples is easy on hearing loss.
Apples to Apples is easy because we can show each other the cards.

I think the biggest thing any HoH person can do is to ask for what they need. If you don’t know, then ask your fellow players for help. Describe why the game is challenging for you—it’s not always obvious to them. Your family and friends learn and retain more when they’ve participated in finding solutions to include you.

The hardest part is not being able to follow the cross talk during play. There are times when I am content just being part of the game and accept that I’m not going to get everything that is said. Other times it feels like being left out and I choose to do something else. A lot depends on my frame of mind at the time and how well my family is doing at including me.

Video Games?

Julia: WE are not a game playing family. I had a memory pop up on why (yes shower memory). My mom would buy me games that were one person games. I thought it was because she was so busy with work. Nope. She hated games. I am great at Pac Man, Mario Brothers, Solitaire, all sorts computer games. 

Growing up my father’s family played a lot of Scrabble. My parents had me when they were quite young and for 13 years I was the only child on his side of the family. So I watched the adults play Scrabble and learned words that earned high scores. At times it turned into a game of War and our Webster Dictionary got a lot of use! And guess what? Despite learning how to win at Scrabble, I am still not that good.

My husband is not a game player, but any game he plays he wins. Always. I will leave that there.


I do like cards. My grandparents tried to teach me Bridge for years, but I struggled to understand. When I moved back to Utah from California my younger cousins had started playing a solitaire game called Demon at family gatherings. My grandmother loved this game so we would regularly play this with her after family dinners. Actually grandma taught me most of the card games I play now. 

When my son and his girlfriend come over we play Gin and I enjoy it. Recently I bought a who-done-it game. Catch the killer? Something along those lines. About twenty minutes in I asked “okay are we ready to play Gin?” My daughter-in-law was affirmative, my son however was hell bent on the who-done-it. BTW it was the wife who-done-it.

Learn more from Hearing Loss LIVE!

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A new lipreading game: Hearing Things. Find how good you, and your family, are at lipreading.

If you liked this post, try Hearing Loss: Family and Communication becaues family is sometimes the hardest. Also, Self Advocacy to learn the art of being proactive with your hearing loss.

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