Restaurants and Hearing Loss

Restaurants and Hearing Loss

If you have a loved one with hearing loss, think back to the last time you ate together in a restaurant. If the conditions were just right, you might not have had a problem communicating. One-on-one meals in quiet places can be just fine for all involved, particularly when the restaurant is not crowded. However, a group dinner in a busy restaurant on a weekend night can be a perfect storm of complications for the communication environment. Competing voices from other tables can confuse the sound of voices at your own table, and background music can create a sonic disturbance, as well. When voices echo into the architecture of high ceilings or hard surfaces, it can be nearly impossible to hear others, particularly for those with hearing loss. Although the food might be delicious, this combination of factors makes it very difficult to communicate, leading to frustration, embarrassment, and even a poor appetite. Rather than succumbing to this difficult scenario, why not get some support for your loved one with hearing loss? You can take some steps to make the meal more enjoyable by getting assistance and offering your own support during the meal. Despite these efforts, the best that you can do to help your loved one with hearing loss is to encourage a hearing test and to pursue treatment for the underlying cause of the struggle to communicate. 

Getting Assistance

The front-of-house staff at the restaurant are there to facilitate your meal, and you can draw on their expertise to have the best time possible. Rather than showing up and taking the first available table, you might want to call ahead for a reservation. When you call, you can ask the host or hostess which table is the quietest. Perhaps you will want to sit away from the kitchen, traffic noise on the street, or speakers playing music. You can also ask what time of day and day of the week will be the least busy. By getting the right combination of time and location, you can make the conditions the best they can be. When you arrive at the restaurant, you can even remind the host, hostess, or server that you are dining with someone who has hearing loss. Becoming aware of the challenges makes it possible for the wait staff to step up and offer their support.

Enjoying Your Meal

When you arrive at the restaurant, your role will be crucial to helping your loved one with hearing loss enjoy the meal. You can take on the role of securing any accommodations available, including finding the best table for a quiet meal. Try to seat your loved one with hearing loss as close to the center of the group as possible. Getting the right seating arrangement should make it possible for that person to hear as many of the others as possible. If it is not possible to position your loved one with hearing loss in the center of the group, then you can provide an informal relay of questions or important information. If the server asks a question about the order or offers important information about the availability of dishes or daily specials, you can casually pass along that information to your loved one with hearing loss by sitting side-by-side. Don’t hesitate to ask your loved one how things are going. That person will have the best perspective on what makes communication challenging and what can be done to improve the situation for all involved.

Treatment: A Lasting Solution

Although the support of restaurant staff and your own sensitivity can improve the situation in the restaurant, none of these accommodations are lasting solutions to the communication problems posed by hearing loss. The best thing you can do to help your loved one is to encourage a hearing test as soon as possible. Once we have a diagnostic assessment of your loved one’s hearing ability, we can step in with a recommendation for the right hearing aids or other assistive technology to meet their communication needs. With this assistance in place, your next meal in a restaurant can be easy and enjoyable for all involved. Why not encourage a hearing test today?