Sound Advice by Ruth D. Bernstein
I’m a sociable person and enjoy eating out occasionally. I’m also someone with a profound hearing loss. Hearing in restaurants is one of the major coping challenges I’ve encountered over the years. Two crowdsourced apps have recently been introduced that can help make finding a restaurant for people with hearing loss easier. In updating this column from 2014, I’ve added those apps and some more ideas to my list of tips that make eating out less of a hearing challenge for me.
- Choose restaurants that are relatively quiet: carpeting, curtains and other materials absorb sound and make for a pleasanter environment. Marble or stone floors, glass and mirrors allow sound to bounce around. It is difficult to hear in those kinds of places.
- Use these crowdsourced apps to help you choose quieter restaurants.
- When you make your reservation on line or on the phone, ask for a quiet table next to a wall or at a booth, if it is available. Sitting in a booth or at a table where the people with hearing loss have their backs against a wall, helps to minimize restaurant noise because the booth or wall acts as a sound baffle.
- Read the menu on the restaurant’s website so you know what you want to order in advance. Ask for a printed list of the specials for the day in advance, if possible.
- Sit with your back to the windows so the light is on your companion’s face. Sit in the middle of the table, not at the ends. You can talk with the people next to you.
- Make sure your table is in an area that is well lit.
- To minimize noise, eat early or late when the least number of people are in the restaurant.
- Ask your audiologist about assistive listening devices which help people with hearing loss hear in noisy situations and, hopefully, lower the decibel level of background noise. Come to CHC-NY for a free group device demonstration available every Thursday at 2:00 p.m.
- Request the restaurant turn the music off while you are there.
- Keep a list of restaurants that work for you in different areas of the city or town you live in. That way, when a friend or relative says “Let’s eat out,” you have some ready suggestions.
- If you have a favorite restaurant, take the time to introduce yourself to the manager at a quiet time and ask for his/her help to make sure you get the best possible table for you.
- For more information and support, join your local chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA).
We look forward to hearing about your favorite tips for eating out when you have a hearing loss.