Starkey Blog

Beating the dinner din — five dining out tips for people with hearing loss

Does it seem that, over the years, restaurants have been getting louder and louder? It’s not your imagination! According to industry insiders, restaurants sometimes deliberately create louder environments for a variety of reasons. These reasons can vary from wanting to create a “fun” atmosphere to making it so customers don’t want to linger – thereby increasing table turnover and revenues.

Having conversation in a noisy restaurant can be difficult, even for individuals with normal hearing. The challenges are greater for those with hearing loss.

Here are five tips to make hearing and understanding in a noisy restaurant easier.

1. Choose your restaurant carefully. Though it may be counterintuitive, consider more than just the food. The modern, minimalist décor of that trendy new restaurant in town may be beautiful, but those high ceilings and hard surfaces can make for a highly reverberant environment. Think about the last time you were in a busy indoor gymnasium or a racquetball court. The more echo and reverberation present, the more difficult it is to understand speech. Another factor to consider is lighting. Sitting in a well-lit area allows you to see non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language that are so important to understanding others. Choosing a restaurant that is dimly lit may keep you from seeing those valuable cues.

2. Choose a booth over a table. The high backs of booths will block some of the environmental sounds that can drown out your conversation. In addition, booth seating is typically made of softer material that can dampen noise. If you’re seated at a table, you don’t get those benefits and there are no obstacles to the various sounds of the restaurant interfering with your ability to hear. Overall, a booth can seem like a relatively quiet oasis from the noise.

3. Sit along the perimeter of the room. Have you ever wanted to have a one-on-one conversation with someone at a large social gathering, and therefore moved to a quiet corner to talk? The same principle applies in a restaurant. Seating along the perimeter or wall of the dining area is naturally quieter. In that position, the restaurant sounds aren’t coming from all sides. This makes it easier for you to tune out those sounds and focus on the conversation at your table.

4. Avoid sitting near the kitchen. Open kitchens that are visible to customers have been growing in popularity in recent years. However, the kitchen is often the noisiest place in a restaurant. Request a booth as far from the kitchen as possible, so you’re not forced to yell over the noise.

5. If you’re wearing hearing aids, sit with your back to the room/noise. Most modern hearing aids are equipped with directional microphone technology designed to help you hear better in the presence of background noise. Most directional systems operate with the assumption that you will be facing the speakers you most want to hear. The system will then provide emphasis to sounds/voices coming from in front of you and reduce sounds from behind you. It’s even more helpful to have your companion(s) with their back to a wall, so their voice is the only sound coming from in front of you for the directional microphones to emphasize. You will get the best results if you position yourself in a way to take advantage of this feature.

Additionally, if you wear Halo 2 or Halo Made for iPhone hearing aids, consider creating a custom memory for the restaurant and use SoundSpace to adjust the sound quality and volume for better listening capabilities. See the video below for how to use SoundSpace. 

Regardless of whether it’s for a special occasion or just an average Tuesday night, we all want to enjoy the experience when we dine out. Use these tips to help ease your communication and enjoy your meal.

Talk to your hearing healthcare provider to discover additional ways to make hearing in restaurants more comfortable.  

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By: Lawanda Chester, Au.D.

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