Hearing Vibes: Challenges of Restaurants for the Hearing Impaired

Tim and Janis Gaule

My wife and I have agreed to coordinate submitting articles to this publication on behalf of the Discussion Group for Better Hearing. In this month’s article we would like to discuss the challenges of restaurants for the hearing impaired.

Restaurants tend to be loud. If you search the question on the Internet “Why are restaurants loud?” you will find plenty of articles addressing this question. There are several contributing factors: poor acoustics and hard surfaces, such as concrete floors and walls. Hard surfaces can reflect sound and create an echo, making the noise level even higher. Additional factors are high ceilings, open spaces, and large crowds. Finally, the music played, some at high volume levels, as well as kitchen noises such as clanging dishes and the sound of cooking, also contribute to the overall noise level.

So how can someone who is hard of hearing cope with all this noise? One tactic that my wife and I have used is to go out to eat at nonbusy times. We like to go out for what we call “Linner.” That is either a late lunch or early dinner. We have found that 2:30 to 3 p.m. is a good time to go to a restaurant. Typically, the restaurant has just a few patrons at that time. We also ask to be seated in an isolated location or booth. If the weather is nice, we will ask to be seated outdoors, if outdoor seating is available.

If the restaurant is playing music, my wife will ask if they would mind turning the volume down. We never ask that they turn it off, as we know other patrons likely enjoy the background music.

If we are dining with others, we try to limit the number in our party to just one or two other couples. Occasionally, I will use a portable microphone that streams sound directly to my hearing aids. This microphone can be helpful if the group we are dining with is not too large. I sometimes request an empty glass, which I turn upside down and use as a pedestal for my microphone.

We would be interested in hearing suggestions that you may like to share for coping with restaurant noise. Our contact email is [email protected]. This is also a topic that we can further discuss at one of our monthly meetings. The Discussion Group for Better Hearing meets the second Friday of each month at 10 a.m. in the Sonoran Room at MountainView clubhouse. For more information, contact Jennifer Jefferis at [email protected] or Lyle Larson at [email protected].