Tips for Dining Out with Hearing Loss

In Communication, Community, Family and Relationships, hearing loss by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Laurie Duffy, M.S.

In recent years, food critics and business journals have commented on the noise level of newer restaurants. Across the country, as new restaurants open and standard favorites are renovated, the trend toward more modern design has changed the acoustics of restaurants – which may alienate those who are hard of hearing.

According to New York Magazine, “Most restaurant scholars will tell you that the Great Noise Boom began in the late nineties, when Mario Batali had the genius idea of taking the kind of music he and his kitchen-slave compatriots listened to while rolling their pastas and stirring their offal-rich ragus and blasting it over the heads of the startled patrons in the staid dining room at Babbo…Sound systems were cranked up and suddenly noise became the hallmark of a successful New York restaurant.”

It’s not just New York. You may have noticed this trend in Rhode Island as well! In part, it is due to the interior design of restaurants. With a rise in celebrity chef culture, open kitchen plans and counter seats to watch chefs in action have become more popular. Moreover, interior design in restaurants has moved toward a more industrial, minimal look. Gone are the table linens, carpets and cushions of older restaurants. Those soft fabrics did a great job at absorbing the acoustics of a restaurant, but with more minimal, bare-bones designs, restaurants are now much louder. According to Jeremy Luscombe, an acoustic consultant, the “industrial design with concrete finishes and hard surfaces means noise is propelled around the room.”

Restaurants, already loud and boisterous, tend to be some of the most challenging acoustic environments. If you experience a hearing loss, you may notice this more than your fellow diners with normal hearing. Here, we offer a few tips for dining with hearing loss.

Select Quieter Restaurants

Not all restaurants are busy and buzzing with loud music and diners talking over one another. When you’re making dinner plans with friends or loved ones, let them know that loud, bustling restaurants may be challenging for you. Even with the use of hearing aids, certain spaces will pose difficulties.

When selecting the restaurant, consider the design and acoustics of the space. Restaurants with high ceilings, open kitchens, and many hard surfaces tend to be louder than small, quaint spaces with tables close together. Additionally, look for a well-lit restaurant, as this will help you see your companions – which helps you hear them better too.

Selecting Your Seats

If the restaurant has booth seating, choose a booth. Booths, with their softer padding and enclosed design help amplify sounds at your table. This will make it easier for you to follow conversations. Moreover, the design of a booth blocks out a lot of the extraneous noises of the restaurant, making it easier for you to hear.

If a booth is not available, ask to be seated on the perimeter of the restaurant. Noise levels tend to be higher in the middle of the restaurant. If possible, sit with your back to a wall. While most hearing aids are designed to filter out extraneous background noise, you may find that it is easier to hear with a wall behind you – rather than a room full of diners chatting! Try to avoid seats near the kitchen – open or not. Kitchens tend to be very loud places and a table near the kitchen experiences much more foot traffic, which means more noise.

Treat Your Hearing Loss with Hearing Aids

If you currently use hearing aids to treat your hearing loss, make sure that you are using your hearing aids to their best ability in loud, challenging spaces. Test out different combinations of program features to filter out background noise and amplify speech sounds. If you use a Made for iPhone hearing aid, try out the app that allows you to stream amplified speech sounds through your iPhone’s microphone for even more accessibility!

If you are currently battling untreated hearing loss, consider taking a hearing test today. If a hearing loss is detected, we will prescribe hearing aids that are designed and customized to meet your specific hearing needs. This will provide you with more access to the sounds of your environment and will make listening in noisy places like restaurants a whole lot easier!

To schedule a hearing test and consultation, contact us at HearCare Rhode Island today.