If you haven’t already, I recommend reading ‘Top Tips For Better Communication When You or Someone You Know Has Hearing Loss’. Those recommendations set a solid foundation for communication strategies.
But what happens when you go out to a restaurant? The most important thing you can do is be open about your hearing loss. Dining out is supposed to be an enjoyable experience. A time to enjoy stories and laughter with family and friends while you dine on foods you typically don’t prepare for yourself. If you can’t hear what is being said, you likely will stop going out. Instead, here are some things you can do to help make your outing an enjoyable one:
Check online and app reviews.
SoundPrint - an app that maps noise levels in restaurants, recommends quiet places and allows you to submit noise complaints.
Yelpallows you to search reviews that have the word “quiet” in them. If you enter “quiet restaurant” reviews with “quiet” mentioned pop up. Similarly, if you type in “Noisy restaurant” reviews with “noisy” or “loud” will pop up and you will know what to avoid.
Pick off times (late lunch, early dinner) to find less crowded dining rooms.
Choose a booth over a table if you have the option. Booths are somewhat enclosed and typically plusher which helps reduce noise.
Sit along the outside of the room (but not next to a busy bar, kitchen, or tray station). This way sounds won’t be coming from all around you. This makes it easier to focus on the conversation in front of you versus all directions.
Try to sit with your back against a wall. This will help block out noise coming from behind, making it easier for you to focus on sounds in front of you.
If one ear is better than the other, try to sit with your better-hearing ear protected by a wall.
It’s harder to understand people you are unfamiliar with. Seat those new to you closer to you.
Faces should be lit from the front. Try to avoid having your back to a window if you are speaking with someone with hearing loss.
Consider reviewing the menu and specials beforehand to familiarize yourself with the offerings. This makes it easier to understand what a wait staff may be saying to you. Many restaurants now have their menus and specials on their social media pages.
Ask your server to stand where you can see them.
If you are wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants, and they have adaptive directional microphones that focus on the voices ahead of you and reduce sounds from behind you, sit with your back facing the most noise. Most hearing aids and cochlear implants have this option, make sure it is activated. If that isn’t enough, ask your audiologist for a custom program for when you are in a restaurant, and make sure to choose it when in the restaurant.
Consider pairing your hearing aids/cochlear implant with either an app on your phone that turns it into a remote microphone or with a partner microphone that your conversational partner can wear. This will help reduce noise and distance, making communication easier.
I hope these strategies help you enjoy dining out as part of your engaged, social lifestyle and creating enjoyable experiences. If you have questions or want to share more tips - write to me below in the comment or leave a question in our Forum.