When you ask people with hearing loss what situations are the most difficult, many people will point to restaurants. What makes a restaurant so difficult for those who have untreated hearing loss? It might come as a surprise, because meals at home can be quite easy. Some of the structural and social features of restaurants make them particularly difficult. In the first place, many people speaking in a room at the same time can cause confusion. Many people with hearing loss have trouble isolating the sound of one voice from another. They struggle to distinguish which voice is speaking to them. Beyond this din of voices, some restaurants have echoing architecture, such as concrete walls or high ceilings. Many play background music, as well, and the room of diners might have to raise their voices to compete with this sound. When you add to these structural features the social ones, such as the momentary awkwardness of learning to speak with a stranger, such as your server, you can see how this setting might be particularly difficult for someone with untreated hearing loss. Let’s take a look at a few helpful tips that can help you have the best time possible when you are eating out. Whether you are at a fast food restaurant or going out for fine dining, communication is the key to a good time.
Finding the Right Setting
Planning your meal can help set the stage for easier communication. In many rooms there are tables that are better or worse when it comes to background noise. If you contact your host or hostess for a reservation, be sure to mention that you have hearing loss and want to be seated at the quietest table. You might find that there is a table with a physical barrier that makes it easier to hear. In some cases a table toward the back will be better, whereas other restaurants have the quietest seats away from the kitchen door. If you arrive at your restaurant without a reservation, you can have this conversation on the spot with your host or hostess, and don’t hesitate to ask for a quieter table if you are seated somewhere that seems too loud to you.
Knowing What to Expect
When you get to the restaurant, limiting the unexpected will be very helpful. Each of these potential encounters is an opportunity for miscommunication. For instance, if you need to choose a side dish or order from the menu of daily specials, these conversations can make it more confusing to get the order right. If possible, take a look at the menu from home. You might even want to call ahead and find out about the daily specials. If you know your full order, you can limit the question and answer back-and-forth that can be so confusing. You can also anticipate any additional questions your server might have for you, such as dietary restrictions or the possibility of dessert.
Getting Help from Others
At the restaurant, you can trust that others want to help you have the best experience possible, limiting challenging interactions for everyone involved. All you need to do to get this assistance is to let others know that hearing is difficult for you and to request specific assistance. Perhaps you want to trade seats with someone so that you are in the center of the table. You’ll be surprised how quickly others will respond to help you have a better time hearing. You might even ask someone to relay questions to you at a closer distance. When they can sit right beside you and repeat what others say, you will have a better chance of understanding.
These tips can go a long way toward helping you hear others. However, these tips can only go so far toward making communication possible. If you find that it is difficult to converse in a restaurant despite your best efforts, why not use that experience as inspiration to get assistance? When you have hearing aids in place at a restaurant, you can reap the benefits for your communication process and enjoyment of that meal. Don’t delay getting a hearing test before your next restaurant meal!