One of the more challenging listening situations for individuals with a hearing loss is trying to communicate in a restaurant. Even the most elegant restaurants tend to be on the noisy side. Numerous conversations are going on all around you, dishes and silverware are constantly clattering, and music is playing in the background. And being in a seated position eliminates your ability to move closer to the person or persons you want to hear.
The Better Hearing Institute has published a comprehensive list of helpful tips for hearing impaired diners.
- Choose a quieter restaurant. For example, unless you’re content to read the captioning on the televisions, avoid sports bars. Try to find carpeted restaurants that have chairs with rollers on the legs (helps to prevent an annoying scraping sound when they are moved), plants, and sound absorbent materials on the tables and walls.
- Make reservations ahead of time, and ask for accommodations.
- Go to your favorite restaurants, so you already know their specialties and options, such as choices of salad dressings or side dishes.
- Pick the best day and time (not Friday nights!) to dine out.
- Look at the restaurant’s website to preview the menu.
- Choose to dine with a smaller number of dining partners.
- Pick a table in the least noisy part of the restaurant (e.g., away from the kitchen, bar, wait service stations, etc.).
- Ask for seating in a well-lit area.
- Remember that even people with normal hearing experience greater difficulty in a noisy listening environment than they do in a quiet listening environment. So, don’t expect to do as well with your hearing aids in the noisy restaurant as you do in the quiet of your home.
- Sit with your back to the window, so that lighting is on the speaker’s face, not in your eyes.
- Request that staff turn down background music (you are probably not the only patron bothered by the volume of the music).
- Tell the host/hostess and waiter/waitress, as well as your dining companions, that you have a hearing loss and that it will help you if they slow down a bit, speak a little bit louder, and face you directly.
- When possible, indicate choices before you’re asked. Examples: “I’d like a salad with Italian dressing” or “I would like a burger, no fries.”
- Ask the waiter/waitress for a printed list of the specials of the day.
- Use directional microphones and/or an FM system. If your hearing aids are set to directional, be sure to sit with your back to the main noise source.
- If restaurant dining is for business, request to meet in a quieter location.
Enjoying the company of your friends and family is important to your well being. By following the above tips and with a little pre-planning dining out can be more of a pleasure and less of a burden, ensuring that your dining experience, at least the listening part is a great one.