Tips for Dining Out with Hearing Loss
Dining out can be a real pleasure but if you have hearing loss, it may also present some special challenges. Restaurants are often loud places and it can be tough to hold a conversation, even for those with normal hearing. A meal out with your loved ones doesn’t have to be stressful though, especially if you take into mind these handy tips to optimize your hearing.
Know what to look for in a restaurant.
Three Michelin stars are great and all, but you should also try to get a little information on what the restaurant’s space and atmosphere are like beforehand. Large, cavernous dining areas and stylish, polished concrete floors will send sound flying in every direction and can make it hard to tell where noise is coming from. The echoing that occurs in large spaces can make it particularly hard to recognize speech. Also consider a restaurant’s “vibe” before you go. A restaurant with a raucous reputation will almost certainly be a loud environment to navigate. When going out with your loved ones, try to opt for small restaurants that are known for a cozy and quiet atmosphere to optimize your auditory experience.
More might not be merrier.
Dine out with a small group to better accommodate conversation. Big tables create their own islands of noise, and following everyone’s banter can become unwieldy fast. Small parties will make it easier to hear everyone and follow the flow of the conversation. Usually, a smaller group means better seating options for noise control will be available. (Plus, with fewer people you probably won’t have to wait as long for a table!)
Stay on the bright side.
Face to face we all use some non-verbal cues to help guide us in a conversation. With hearing loss, it’s best to take the most advantage of these. Sitting in a well-lit area of a restaurant will increase your comprehension by improving your ability to catch body language and facial expressions.
Skip the business lunch.
If you have hearing loss, its best to avoid conducting business in chaotic environments like restaurants. Instead, order food delivery and schedule your lunch meeting somewhere where you can share a meal and discuss business in a quiet space.
Keep out of the kitchen.
A lot of eateries now feature an open kitchen and the chance to watch food being prepared. Alluring as this can sound, a restaurant’s kitchen is going to be one of the loudest places in the space, full of clanging pots and clattering silverware. Even if the kitchen space is behind doors, the traffic and noise around the area will still be elevated. This same rule applies to a restaurant’s bar, which is a hub of activity and sound as glasses clink and patrons socialize. Try to steer clear of sitting by either of these especially loud areas.
Check out their sides.
Sitting along the perimeter of a space, rather than in the center of it, helps you block excess sound. Ask your host to seat you along the edges of the room or with your back to the wall. Sitting in a booth also helps to improve communication at dinner. In restaurants and any crowded, social space walls or booths will work you your advantage, blocking noise and helping the directional microphones in your hearing device distinguish sound sources.
Opt for a booth.
Booth seating offers a few advantages for diners with hearing impairment. First, the upholstery of a booth works to muffle ambient noise, making it easier to hear those in your party. High-backed booths can effectively block many surrounding sounds from reaching your table. Booths also act as a small wall behind the other members of your dining party making it easier to distinguish their voices from other room conversations. Other upholstered or fabric features of a restaurant’s interior, like heavy curtains, rugs or wall hangings can have the same helpful sound muffling properties, so keep an eye out for those when choosing a table as well.
Bon appetit! Hearing loss doesn’t have to limit what you enjoy in life and knowing what to look for in an environment to optimize your hearing is key. Enjoying time and making memories with family and friends around a great meal shouldn’t be stressful, and with a little consideration it won’t be. If you do have any concerns about navigating the world with hearing loss check in with one of our hearing specialists at Lifestyle Hearing Solutions, we’re happy to assist you.