According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing. This means that a significant portion of the population may face challenges when dining out in restaurants. However, there are a handful of tips and strategies that can make dining out a more enjoyable experience for individuals with hearing loss.
How Hearing Loss Works
When people encounter hearing loss later in life, it’s most often caused by the normal aging process, exposure to excessive noise or a mixture of both. These antagonists both harm hearing in much the same fashion. Time, or excessive noise, damage the sensitive inner ear cells, which play an important role in hearing. They are responsible for collecting sound occurring around you where they then transform the vibrations into electrical signals, or sound information, that is sent to the brain. In the brain’s processing centers, the sound information is translated into meaning.
When they decline in health, the inner ear cells don’t reproduce or repair themselves. Instead, the number of functioning cells we have access to is reduced. We are able to collect less of the noise spectrum and we send less sound information to the brain. This is hearing loss.
Hearing loss often presents as trouble understanding speech, because we lose access to certain frequencies rather than an overall lowering of volume. This makes conversation difficult for people with hearing loss in situations like a noisy restaurant. There, they are contending with a diminished ability to hear all sound frequencies, plus the added audio confusion of a healthy helping of background noise.
Why Hearing In Restaurants Is Difficult
We use decibels to measure sound, and this measurement can help us understand why it’s more difficult to hear in restaurants. Normal conversation is typically around 60-65 decibels. For people with hearing loss and their predetermined struggle with speech clarity, this can already be a touch too quiet. This is why hearing loss interventions like hearing aids and listening assistive devices work fundamentally to amplify conversation.
Now factor in the volume level of the average restaurant, which hovers around 70-80 decibels. People are speaking, there might be music playing, servers are bustling around with plates and you may even hear sounds from the kitchen. Now, the voices of your dining companions are competing with this additional noise.
4 Tips For Dining Out With Hearing Loss
There are some guidelines you can follow to ensure that you have the least stressful meal possible. They require very little effort and can offer you a five star experience with more regularity.
Do some internet reconnaissance
Before you visit a new restaurant or when you’re picking a place to dine at, visit the internet first. There are a plethora of Yelp and Google reviews online where you can get the download before you arrive. It might also be comforting to know that you aren’t the only one seeking a quieter dining experience! Many reviews will explicitly address the noise issue, but you can also sleuth out telltale hints like ‘cozy’ and ‘intimate.’
View pictures of the interior
There are also clues to be had in the dining decor. Look for carpeting and wood finishes, which will provide better sound absorption and cut down on the interference of background noise. Avoid modern design elements like cement floors, high ceilings and metal tables which all lend the space to a more cacophonous vibe.
Bring your hearing aids
Not by accident, many of today’s hearing aids are equipped with programs to filter out background noise and hone in on what you want to hear: conversation. If you are new to hearing aids or just want a temporary solution to the problem of conversation when dining out, you might try an assistive listening device that can be placed on the table and send the amplified sound directly to your ears.
Location, location, location
Your seating arrangement is important. Ask to be seated with your back to the wall, which will eliminate background noise from behind you and capture more sound from the person speaking across from you. Even better, choose a corner seat or a high backed booth.
Schedule A Hearing Consultation
If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing health or if conversation is frustrating when dining out at restaurants, schedule a hearing consultation with us today. Our team will lead you through a simple hearing exam so that we can understand where your hearing stands today. From there, we’ll explore potential treatment and chart a course to better hearing.