There’s something lovely about dining out. It’s a chance to tickle your tastebuds with new foods. An opportunity to spend time with family and friends. And a way to enjoy a delicious meal without messing up your own kitchen!
But dining out takes on a new dimension when you’re living with hearing loss. Instead of interesting conversation, you’re hearing the clattering of cutlery and the incessant, irritating hum of background noise. What’s the point in going when you can’t hear the waiter describe the specials and keep mishearing your friends’ stories?
Thankfully, you don’t have to give up and stay home with a microwave meal while your family and friends enjoy fine food. With a bit of planning ahead, you can still enjoy dining out despite your hearing loss. Try these 7 tips.
1. Choose a venue with soft furnishings
Soft materials absorb sound and so reduce noise. A place that features carpets, tablecloths, curtains or cushioned seats will be quieter than a cavernous space full of hard surfaces.
Unfortunately, many restaurants like minimalist Swedish design featuring hard surfaces (which are also easier to clean). Sound ricochets off those surfaces.
Noise breeds noise too. Everyone starts talking more loudly, which raises the noise level further causing a vicious cycle that spoils your evening out.
However, if you do a bit of reconnaissance, you may be able to find some great restaurants with a more cosy design. Another option is to sit outside where it tends to be less noisy anyway (this is also a very COVID-friendly plan).
2. Pick a place with good lighting
Your brain captures and integrates information from your senses to help you interpret the world. That means your sight can help boost your hearing.
So, when choosing a restaurant, consider the lighting. A well-lit place where you can see a person’s face as they talk will provide many cues that augment your hearing and help you understand what’s being said.
If your favourite place is not well-lit at night, then consider going for lunch instead.
3. Book ahead and ask for the right table
So, now you’ve chosen a well-lit place with soft furnishings, it’s time to think about where you’ll be.
Some tables are more secluded than others. You don’t want a table near the kitchen or the bar, for example. Ask the restaurant which is the quietest table and book that one.
4. Choose the right seat at the table
Having chosen the quietest table, pick a seat in the middle of it. That way, you’ll be roughly the same distance from everyone rather than sitting at the end of a long table where you can’t hear the person at the other end.
5. Go when it’s quieter
An early dinner is likely to be much quieter than a later one when the restaurant is busy. With fewer people in the building, there’s simply less noise.
An early dinner has health benefits too. The calories you eat may be the same but your body burns them better when you eat earlier in the evening. An early dinner has been shown to help you burn fat and lower your blood sugar.
6. Make your social group aware of your hearing loss
If you’re dining out with people you like and trust, then consider letting them know about your hearing loss. When people understand that a later meal in a noisier restaurant is hard for you due to a medical condition, they’re likely to be understanding.
Difficult as it may be to disclose your hearing loss, it’s sometimes less embarrassing to tell people the truth than to answer the wrong question or not laugh at the joke.
Researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear studied how people had disclosed their hearing loss and what happened next. They found that people became more comfortable explaining their hearing loss over time and mostly experienced reactions of help, support, and accommodation.
7. Use assisted listening devices
If you have a hearing aid, then an assisted listening device is a great way to boost your hearing in noise.
A tabletop hearing accessory is a small disc that you place on the table which streams sound directly to your hearing aids, giving you the best hearing in the restaurant. The microphones inside the device tune to the nearest person talking, seamlessly switching from one speaker to another as the conversation flows while processing and cleaning up the sound for you.
Another thing to do if you already have a hearing aid is to ensure it’s properly tuned. Some hearing aids have a second setting for hearing in noise.
How can A Better Ear help?
At A Better Ear, we want you to enjoy a great life unhindered by hearing loss. We want you to enjoy meals out with family, friends and colleagues, sampling tasty food and building deep relationships.
We can conduct a thorough audiological assessment to diagnose your hearing loss then explore treatment options and provide advice on how to make going out more enjoyable for you.
All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.