When you have hearing loss, dining in a restaurant can often feel like a challenging experience. What if you cannot hear your companions? What should you do when you can’t understand your server because the music is so loud? Here are 10 Tips for Dining Out When You Have Hearing Loss to help improve your overall experience.
1. Self Identify: If you do not identify yourself as a person with hearing loss, how will servers know that you might need a little bit of clarification when they are speaking? Let them know what you need, such as have them face when they are speaking to you, or have them write down key points.
2. Ask to Sit in a Quiet Area: If you don’t request a quiet area (either in advance with a reservation, or when you arrive at the restaurant) you risk being seated in a high traffic, noisy area of the restaurant. Do not be afraid to ask for an area away from noise.
3. Good Lighting is Key: Although fancy candlelit dinners are nice, if you have hearing loss and rely on speech/lip reading, opting for a restaurant with good lighting will allow you to understand people better. If your server sits you in a dark corner of a restaurant, ask for a table where the lighting is better. Chances are, your experience will be a lot better when you are able to properly lipread. At the very least, ask for more candles!
4. Sit so You Can See the Most People: Along with good lighting, sitting so you can see the faces of the people you are eating with is also important. If you are in a large group and can only speechread what three or four of your companions are saying, choose to sit across from the people you want to talk to the most.
5. Use Your Noise Control Programs: If you use amplification technology, like hearing aids, a cochlear implant, or other listening device, you may have noise control settings or programs which will enable you to turn the volume up or down, as needed, so you can ensure that you will not get a headache from being in a noisy environment. Some technology also allows for multiple sound settings that can be pre-set for different types of acoustic (sound) environments, that will soften the background of noisy environments such as restaurants. If you’re uncertain that your hearing aids or cochlear implant has this functionality, please discuss with your hearing health provider.
6. Pick Restaurants That are Quieter: Restaurant review websites, like Yelp, now have a section which states whether people thought the restaurant was loud, average or quiet. If the rating is not listed, ask around. Many people who are hard of hearing tend to frequent the places that they know are quiet, sometimes without realizing it. As well, if you notice that the music is really loud in a restaurant, you have the option to politely ask them to turn it down. Chances are, if you find it loud, so does everyone else. If a restaurant refuses to turn down the volume, consider speaking with management or taking your business elsewhere.
7. Have Your “Person” Near You: Having a person that you know is easy to talk to, will include you in the conversation, and will let you know when the topic changes, is a great help when you are trying to communicate with people in a noisy setting. This person could be a friend, sibling, coworker, anyone that will “keep you in the loop” about what is going on.
8. Ask People to Communicate Effectively: When voices are overlapping, it can be hard to pick out what each individual person is saying. Ask others to slow down, speak clearly, face you and wait for another person to finish before they speak will improve the conversation for everyone.
9. Have a Pen and Paper on Hand: When you are in a noisy place, having a pen and paper (or even a phone or other device you can type on) on hand can make a world of difference. If you can not hear, ask the person to write it down. This ensures that you understand exactly what they mean.
10. Do Not Bluff: If someone is talking to you and you did not hear what they said, ask them to repeat it or ask for clarification. Do not pretend to understand if you did not – it can sometimes get you in trouble.
By following our 10 Tips, your restaurant experience can be greatly improved. Remember to use the tips that you feel will work best for you, because hearing loss is different for everyone who experiences it.