Eating Out: Seven Tips for Hearing Better in Restaurants

1.  Pick the best seat:  Don’t hesitate to tell the restaurant hostess—before she leads you to your table—that where you sit makes a big difference. The job of the hostess is to get people seated quickly, so if you think a location is going to be problematic, don’t agree to sit there.  Explain to others in your group as well.  (See my blog about telling others.)

If you have directional microphones in your hearing aids, the best seat is one that will put room noise behind you.  

Booths are better than tables. Round tables are better than square ones. Stay away from the kitchen. 

I like to sit with my back to a window—if light is streaming through the windows, the face of the person sitting with his back to the window will be in shadow.  It’s impossible to read lips if you can’t see the person’s face.

Sit beside the mumblers and low talkers.  If you have a better ear, sit on that side of a low talker.  Sit directly across from the animated group members—you’re more likely to be able to hear them from a short distance.  If an animated group member knows that you have hearing loss, your life will be so much easier—she may include you in her conversation by looking at you and repeating what others have said.  Tell others how to help.

2. LACE training:

LACE auditory training can help you hear better in noise, and also hear people who speak quickly. Auditory training can specifically focus on training your brain to hear a target voice when other voices are in the background.  For more information, see the articles under Why Do I Need Auditory Training?

3.  Look down at your menu:

When we are at a restaurant, and the server approaches our table to talk to us, my husband looks down at the menu.  If my husband doesn’t give eye contact, the server has no choice but to look at me.  I can understand much better if the server is just looking at me and not looking back and forth between us.   For more information about how your significant other can help, see my e-book, A Guide for Significant Others.

4.  Ambiance:

Choose restaurants that have carpeting, plants, booths, curtains, and tablecloths.  Loud music is not your friend—sometimes management will agree to turn the volume down if you explain. 

5. When you order:

Listen to others as they order, so you know what questions the server is asking.  Anticipate information that the server will be looking for, and include it in your initial order. If you can’t hear the server, fess up! It’s easier to admit at the beginning of the meal.  Explain how the server can help you hear better.

6.  Who is talking?

Your understanding will improve when you know where to look, so you can use visual cues to help you understand.  If you have a helpful person near you, you could ask her to point to who is speaking when you’re having trouble locating that person in space.  Agree beforehand that when you look at her during the conversation, that’s a signal that you need help.  A subtle finger pointing to the person who is talking works nicely.

7. Assistive technology:

If you have trouble hearing in restaurants, tell your hearing healthcare professional, and ensure that you have a noise program in your hearing aids.  Assistive listening devices such as FM systems help greatly in noisy listening environments.

Do you have other strategies for hearing well in noisy restaurants?  If so, share them with us!

Photo credit:  Monkey Business Images

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