Hearing Well in Restaurants

Walk into any newer restaurant these days, particularly if it is a franchise, and you will be bombarded with noise. It seems that the combination of an open, somewhat industrial decor and loud music are the status-quo. This combination may increase the 'cool' factor, but does absolutely nothing to help interpersonal communication. Even if you and your partner have normal hearing, a large loud room with noises bouncing around create havoc when it comes to conversation. Couple this with a guest who has even a mild hearing loss and frustration levels will undoubtedly rise. Here are a few things to think about before you head out the door: 

1. Do your homework: check on line reviews, perhaps other patrons have commented on the great or not so great atmosphere and ease of hearing. Also look at the Hearing Loss Association of America/Rochester chapter's website. The members post the winners and losers for noise levels in many local restaurants (this is found under the accessibility tab).

2. Check your surroundings: look for rooms that have carpet, lower ceilings, heavier window coverings and perhaps sound absorbing tiles. All of these will cut down on the bouncing around of sound waves, creating a quieter environment. 

3. Seating options: ask for a booth or table in the corner of the room, but not near the kitchen. Sitting in the middle of a busy dining room is the worst option. The corners are a bit more protected from the ambient noise. If possible, chose a table that has adequate lighting, but not direct sunlight streaming through a window. Being able to see the speaker's face is a huge help when understanding speech. Even those with awesome hearing get a lot of information from visual cues.

4. Timing: try dining in the off hours, when crowds are thinner. Obviously, there will be less noise and who knows, maybe the service will be better too!

5. Advocate, advocate, advocate! Remember we are the patrons spending our hard earned money!  As mentioned before, requesting a table in a part of the dining room, or perhaps  side room, is a way to advocate for your self and your party. If the music is loud , ask the dining room manager to turn down the level of the music.  Although, we cannot go into an establishment and change everything, some minor tweaks may be possible. If enough people ask to have the music turned down, perhaps the message will get through that it's too loud. 

6. Don't talk with your mouthful: Okay, this may be unnecessary to mention, but it can greatly hamper speech intelligibility, and of course it just plain bad manners!