Dining Out With Hearing loss

Dining Out With Hearing loss

Last year in the US, Covid-19 exposed the things that many of us take for granted until they are no longer an option, such as indoor dining. Restaurants around the country took advantage of the relaxation of restrictions earlier this year that allowed for indoor dining. The numbers have even returned to normal in certain areas. 

While that is great for business and the social lives of restaurant-lovers, it also means the return of restaurant noise. Food critics and business magazines have begun to remark on the loudness level of contemporary restaurants in recent years. 

Why have restaurants become louder?

The trend toward more modern design has impacted the acoustics of restaurants around the country. 

Which modern design trends are we talking about here?

  • Bare surfaces: Table linens and carpeted flooring are being replaced by exposed brick walls and concrete floors. Sound reverberation in these renovated places can be challenging, especially if you already have hearing problems.
  • Open designs: With the rise of celebrity chef culture, open kitchen designs have grown increasingly fashionable, with cooking increasingly becoming a performance. Open kitchens are entertaining and lively, but they also increase the amount of noise. The restaurant is substantially louder due to the clatter of pots and pans and the chatter of chefs in the kitchen.
  • Louder music: Finally, there's the issue of music and ambiance to consider. This is because louder restaurants are seen as vibrant and lively, and few individuals want to eat in a completely silent environment.

How restaurant noise impacts speech understanding

One of the most challenging aspects of hearing loss is understanding those you are engaged in conversation with. Many with hearing loss have no problems hearing, but they have trouble understanding what they are hearing. The term 'hearing loss is a bit of a misnomer - 'understanding loss' might be more accurate!

When you're in a noisy restaurant, this problem is amplified. How are you expected to enjoy your time with friends if you have a hearing problem, with background noise interfering and multiple individuals speaking simultaneously?

Tips for eating out with a hearing loss

If you’re having trouble following your dining partner’s anecdotes, keep reading to learn how to maximize speech comprehension when dining out.

1. Choose a quieter restaurant.

Bring up the fact that certain places are noisier than others when arranging with your loved ones, making it harder to keep up with conversations. Even with hearing aids, which are meant to filter out background noise and amplify and focus on speech sounds, it can be challenging to hear when music, loud noise, or conversations are happening all around you.

2. Instead of a table, choose a booth.

Booths are more comfortable, and they're also better for those with hearing loss. The soft material of booth cushions absorbs sound, while the high backs of booths aid in blocking out noise. Booths are typically arranged in a U-shape or allow you to sit near one another, aiding speech comprehension.

3. Don't sit near the kitchen or front door.

Even if there is a closed door, the kitchen is the noisiest place in the house, and open-concept kitchens are generally noisier. Similarly, avoid sitting near the door because outside sounds and traffic noise may be distracting.

4. Sit on the sidelines

Choosing a seat around the room's periphery, similar to how we move away from large crowds to have quiet, one-on-one chats, may help you hear better during your dinner. If you make a reservation, request a table towards the perimeter to make things easier for you. A restaurant's perimeter is usually quieter. If possible, sit with your back to the noise, as your hearing aids will pick up on speakers who are seated or standing directly in front of you. Request that the host seat you at a table with sufficient lighting so that you can read your dinner partners' faces and keep up with the discussion.

Do you have hearing aids yet?

One of the best things you can do to better enjoy your time in restaurants is to seek hearing treatment. Hearing aid technology has advanced to the point that they are now more discreet, sophisticated, and comfortable than ever before. Hearing loss also has no age limit; anyone at any age can benefit from hearing aids. What's more, you will improve daily interactions and be at your best in any social situation, not just at dinner. 

If you already wear hearing aids, you'll be undoubtedly aware of the advantages they provide during conversations. Make the most of your hearing aid's functions and contact us if you have any questions about the features of your hearing aid.

If you have hearing loss but don't have hearing aids, you're missing out. We offer complete hearing exams and hearing aid fittings. Contact us to set up a consultation today!

Written by
Reviewed by
Dr. David DeKriek
Audiologist & Founder
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David DeKriek, Au.D. has been helping the hearing impaired of Los Angeles County to hear better for more than 20 years. Dr. Dekriek gained experience in a wide range of medical environments before opening Fidelity Hearing Center.

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