You can’t turn down every invitation for a meal out on the town. And why would you want to? Enjoying food with the people you love is one of life’s great pleasures. Despite the fact that restaurants provide one of the most challenging listening environments for those with hearing loss, there are a few useful tips you can use in order to make it a truly enjoyable experience.
Eliminate background noise
Background noise can interfere with the conversation happening right in front of you. Few environments have such challenging features and the restaurant scene has it in droves: other customer’s conversations, clinking glasses, foot traffic and movement of the waitstaff, loud music. It’s a difficult situation for someone with normal hearing to navigate.
However, there is an incredibly simple, but incredibly effective, solution to the seemingly impossible problem of background noise. Sit with your back to the wall. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? You’ll be surprised at how often people don’t take advantage of this singular resolution. Not only do you nullify the occurrence of distracting noise from behind you, but if you’re able to find a booth — or better yet, a curved booth — you’ll also add to the amplification of the noise happening in front of you. Namely that of your companion or party’s conversation.
Cozy beats modern any day
While the new modern decor of the local hotspot might be calling your name, it presents potential problems if you have hearing loss. High ceilings, cement or bare floors, overly loud music; these are all culprits of a challenging listening environment.
Instead, rekindle your love affair with the timeless, cozy restaurant in town. Opt for spots that have carpeting, low ceilings, soft music and intimate booths. These are all hallmarks of an older design era and are also all incredibly helpful in creating a listening environment that benefits conversation.
If you’re unsure of the design or ambience of a restaurant you’ve never been to, make sure to read online reviews for clues. Remember, you’re not the only person around looking for a great conversation spot. You can bet that many reviews will be dedicated to noise levels and conversation ease, which is a great indicator of whether you should make a reservation.
Face time isn’t just a great app
Make sure that you have a full view of your party’s faces. This can help in decoding conversation and decreasing listening effort. Round tables are ideal for large parties, because everyone has a front row seat and most of your group will have an unobstructed view of one another without the craning of necks.
You’ll have the benefit of being able to watch the speaker’s mouth as they talk, while also paying attention to nonverbal cues like body language or mannerisms. We forget how much these indicators assist us in following meaning and content of a conversation because they’re often cues we use subconsciously.
Ask for help
Living with hearing loss shouldn’t take dining out with others off the table for you. When communication becomes difficult, it can quickly lead to feelings of isolation. Our tendency to avoid challenging or painful situations sometimes leads us to self imposed solitude. Instead of pretending like we’re unbothered, let your loved ones know that the situation is hard for you, but that you’re willing to try in order to spend quality time with them.
And don’t limit the request for help to just your family and close friends. We’re all in this together, so note your preference for a quiet spot when you make your reservation or when you’re speaking with the restaurant’s host. At times, this might add to your wait for a table. But, remember that the host will want to accommodate you as best they can. It’s in the restaurant’s best interest for you to have a good experience, tell others, and return. Make your request known and use the extra time to grab a quick pre-dinner drink at the bar.
When dining out in a group, enlist a friend to assist you in translating. When you’re in doubt about where the conversation is going, you can lean on them for a helpful prompt. Think of it as doing them a favor, nothing feels as good as assisting someone else.
And here’s the best tip we’ve got for dining out with hearing loss: get your hearing tested and get fitted for hearing aids. Here at Neighborhood Hearing Centers, we provide both. Contact us today to improve your listening — and dining! — experience.