Tips for Dining Out with Hearing Loss

  • By pugetsound
  • 20 Feb, 2017

So why are restaurants so loud these days?

Bon Appetit
  • Restaurateurs have found that lively spaces draw people in. If a venue is perceived as busy and successful, it is more likely to attract diners, as many people dislike the idea of socializing in a silent room. In general, loud spaces seem to be more attractive to customers--but of course there is a limit to that rule.
  • Modern design trends--such as pared-down, unfinished spaces and empty tables--create more echoes and amplify sound. The lack of textiles, carpeting and cushions means that sound is more likely to bounce around the restaurant and into our ears.
  • Loud music makes us eat faster. There’s evidence that the louder and faster the music, the more quickly people will consume their food and beverages. In fact, many corporate restaurant chains have developed soundtracks which change over to higher-tempo, louder music when they want to encourage table turnover.
All of these factors can make eating out a frustrating experience for someone with hearing loss, but there is no need to stop going to restaurants.

Here are five tips that will make it easier to follow conversations and reduce the stress of dining out.

  1. Choose your restaurant with sound in mind. Basing your decision strictly on the food might be more what you’re used to, but taking the time to consider other factors will help you to have an enjoyable experience. Avoid spaces with modern, minimalist décor, as hard surfaces contribute to reverberations which interfere with one’s ability to understand speech. Lighting is another issue to consider: if you choose a dimly-lit restaurant you might miss out on valuable non-verbal clues which can help a great deal in understanding conversations. A comfortable, soft well-lit space will be your best bet in terms of restaurant environment.
  2. Ask to be seated in a booth. While not always available, booths are the ideal choice for diners with hearing loss. Unwanted environmental noises will be at least partially blocked by the high backs, and the softer material can help to dampen reverberations. Many booths are also situated along a wall on one side, so there will be less foot-traffic related noise than at a table. In short: if you have a choice, wait for a booth. Your ears will thank you for choosing this quiet, cozy place to converse and eat.
  3. Sit beside a wall.If you end up choosing a table, look for one along the perimeter of the restaurant. The spaces near a restaurant’s walls are naturally quieter, as sound isn’t coming from all directions. A table in a corner spot would be a smart choice; in this quieter area, you and your companion will be able to tune out other distractions and focus on conversation.
  4. Don’t sit near the kitchen.Many diners enjoy restaurants with open kitchens and the experience of taking in the sights, smells and sounds of their food being made. However, keep in mind that the kitchen is one of the loudest areas in a restaurant. Ask to be seated in a booth or at a table as far from this area as possible, so that you and your friend don’t find yourselves having to compete with this additional noise.
  5. For hearing aid wearers: sit with your back to unwanted noise. As the directional microphones of most hearing aids work by amplifying the sounds in front of the wearer, sitting with your back to the noisiest part of the restaurant will help your hearing aid block out unwanted sounds and hone in on the words of your companion. If possible, ask them to sit with their back to a wall, so the only sound coming from in front of you is their voice. It may seem like a lot to consider, but in this age of noisy restaurants, sitting strategically will go a long way towards helping you understand--and enjoy!--conversations while dining out.
Wondering what kinds of features your hearing aids provide to enhance listening? Contact us at Puget Sound Hearing to learn more.

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