Hearing Impairment and Restaurants

Background noise

Background Noise presented in a restaurant environment is one of the most difficult situations for a person with hearing loss to deal with. As a person with hearing loss, I find that restaurants are not a quieter place for conversation as they once were. Many of today’s restaurants have allowed the soft quiet environments to become more of a thing of the past.

The old style Restaurants used to be filled with carpet and drapes

The old style Restaurants used to be filled with carpet and drapes which had somewhat of a dampening effect. These soft surfaces do not reflect noise and make for a much quieter location. Restaurant’s with modern decor now have many “hard surfaces” that promote the booming, projected, and lofty sounds that are present. Many of these new trendy restaurants have no curtains, partitions, room dividers, etc. The newest restaurant chic is styles that have opted for tile floors and beamed ceilings and open designs, which reflects most levels of sound. Faster beat music and higher noise elements studies of acoustical engineers reports that restaurant goers eat faster and drink faster both equate to more money to the owners.

As the younger generation begins to develop their own style of restaurant chic it can be more and more frustrating for a person with a hearing issue to find a quieter place to talk and eat.

I present these few simple tips that should be a help when selecting seating in any restaurant.

1. Do not sit directly in the middle of the restaurant. This is one of the loudest places to sit, with no walls or barriers close by to help block some of that background noise. Remember, background noise is the problem. Try to sit near the wall, next to a partition or room divider. This will help limit noise coming at you from all sides.

2. Sit in a booth if possible. This adds a noise block so that the noise from behind you is somewhat blocked, as well as the wall. This can reduce the background noise substantially.

3. Do not sit next to the kitchen. The kitchen is the loudest places in a restaurant. It has a lot of foot traffic from the wait staff coming and going, as well as the clinking of dishes and the sounds of the cooks cooking. Let your waiter or waitress know to seat you in another area if possible.

4. If you have to sit at the bar, try to sit at the end. Bars are a very noisy place. They add an additional issue of not facing the person that you are trying to speak to. This can become very problematic when holding a conversation. If the bar has a corner I suggest that you sit where you can face the person you are talking to.

5. Sitting across from the person you’re listening to is very important. Sitting across from the person you are listening to is very important in situations with high levels of background noise. If you are in a group, and you know one person in particular is the most difficult to hear, or the most important to hear, sit across from this person. Facial and body cues can be a great help in understanding what is being said, and will help fill in the gaps that might be missed due to the excessive background noise.

6. Use a remote microphone if possible. Some hearing aids have a feature that allows a remote microphone to be set up with direct communication to your hearing aids. The use of a remote microphone can completely change a person’s ability to hear and understand conversations.

I hope that these simple guidelines will help you next time you enter a busy restaurant environment.

Larry Bailey