Trying to hear in a busy restaurant with hearing aids can be tricky. Here are some helpful tips to use when dining out.
Before you go out
- Plan ahead by picking a quieter restaurant. For example, you may want to avoid a noisy sports bar with loud televisions. Try to find restaurants with widely spaced tables and carpeted restaurants that are sound absorbent, thereby reducing the amount of distant noise and echo.
- Make reservations ahead of time and ask for a quiet table or a booth.
- Pick a less busy day and time to dine out; try and avoid the noisiest times such as Friday evening.
- Look on the restaurant’s website to preview the menu and become aware of their specialties and options such as salad dressings or side dishes.
- Choose to dine with a smaller number of dining partners. If you find yourself out with a large group, try focusing on the conversation with the people next to you or across from you. Recognize that there will be limitations to what you can hear. It may be entirely too difficult to hear a person at the other end of the table.
At the restaurant
- Pick a table in the least noisy part of the restaurant (e.g. away from the kitchen, bar, wait service stations, music, etc.).
- Ask for seating in a well-lit area so you can see people’s faces better.
- Remember that even people with normal hearing experience greater difficulty in a noisy listening environment than they do in a quiet place. Don’t expect to do as well with your hearing aids in the noisy restaurant as you do in the quiet of your home.
- Request that staff turn down background music if it is too loud.
- Tell the host/hostess and waiter/waitress, as well as your dining companions, that you have a hearing loss and that it will help you if they slow down a bit, speak a little bit louder, get your attention before they speak to you, and face you directly.
- When possible, indicate choices before you’re asked. Examples: “I’d like a salad with Italian dressing” or “I would like the prime rib done medium well.”
- Ask the waiter/waitress for a printed list of the specials of the day.
- Use assistive listening devices such as a remote microphone or FM system (see side panel). If your hearing aids are set to directional, be sure to sit with your back to the main noise source.
- Relax and enjoy the fine food and the company, even if you don’t catch every word.
Hopefully these tips will help you next time you are eating out. Do you have others? Share in the comments.