What do you hear when you’re dining out in a restaurant? Years back, you probably heard the conversation clearly and could tell what the waiter was saying as they described the specials or explained different menu options.
These days? Well, it’s harder to enjoy a meal out.
Maybe you now have to see the specials board because you can’t quite grasp what the waiter is saying. Perhaps the conversation at your table seems to blend into the incessant hum of background noise from other diners. That means you keep missing key parts of your friends’ anecdotes and find that you’re laughing along without really knowing what was so funny.
It’s frustrating because there’s something lovely about dining out, especially after so many meals at home during lockdown. So, how can you make it easier to enjoy dining out with hearing loss? Here are our top tips.
1. Plan ahead to find a place with soft furnishings and good lighting
Do a bit of (fairly enjoyable!) research. Take a stroll around your area and peek into the windows of restaurants and cafes that appeal to you.
This time, look beyond the menu and the overall vibe and focus on the decor and the lighting.
Soft furnishings absorb sound. You’ll find it easier to hear what’s being said at your table if you’re dining in a cosy place that features tablecloths, cushioned seats and curtains.
Good lighting means your sense of sight can help out your sense of hearing. Your brain uses information from all your senses to create a combined experience of the world around you. If you can see your mate’s mouth moving as he talks, you’re more likely to hear what he’s saying. So, look for a well-lit restaurant or go at lunchtime when the daylight can help you out.
2. Sit in the sweet spot
The sweet spot means the right seat at the right table.
If you’re eating out with a large group, sit in the middle of the table so no-one’s too far away to hear or see.
Ask for a quiet table away from the kitchen, bar or other parts of the restaurant that are guaranteed to be noisy.
3. Pick the right time
If you go for an early dinner, chances are the restaurant will not be as busy (and therefore noisy) as it gets later. Plus, you won’t be told that they’ve run out of your first-choice menu option.
If you don’t feel like going home immediately afterwards, you can always work off some calories and aid your digestion by taking a stroll around and soaking up the ambience.
4. Let people know it’s hard to hear
This depends a bit on who you’re dining out with but, if they’re people you know and trust, consider calling them beforehand and letting them know that it’s getting hard for you to hear clearly in noisy environments. They’re likely to be understanding and supportive of your needs, especially if you then say that you’ve found a few interesting restaurants that serve great food in a hearing-friendly environment.
Your close friends and family may already be aware that your hearing is changing. Sometimes, disclosing your hearing loss feels like lifting a weight off your shoulders.
5. Get the gadgets
Modern hearing technology is incredible. If you’ve already got a hearing aid, then make sure it’s properly tuned – some have a second setting for environments where there’s a lot of background noise.
You may also want to consider pairing your hearing aid with an assisted listening device to help you hear more clearly in noisy environments. There are even some tabletop devices, which are basically small discs that you place on the table which then transmit the conversation directly to your ears, arguably giving you better hearing than many other people in the restaurant!
How can Active Audiology help?
We’re keen to help you enjoy life, which includes savouring pleasures like meals out with friends.
Active Audiology is an independent clinic, meaning we’re not working on commission or sales targets from hearing aid manufacturers. We’re here to give you an accurate assessment of your hearing and informed advice on how to improve it so you can communicate more easily with others and live the life you want.
All information is general in nature.