Don't Let Hearing Loss Prevent You From Dining Out

Individuals with hearing loss have particular difficulty communicating in environments with excessive background noise, such as busy restaurants. Rather than face the prospect of trying to enjoy a good meal while dealing with competing conversations, clanging silverware and dishes and distracting music, many choose to skip the experience altogether. But you don’t have to consign yourself to a lifetime of meals at home; there are strategies you can employ to help you enjoy dining out at your favorite restaurant on occasion.

The following tips will help ensure a positive restaurant experience for those with hearing loss:

  • Choose a booth over a table. Tables are typically situated in the middle of the room, and offer little respite from noise. Try calling ahead and requesting a booth if available.

  • Don’t sit near the kitchen. Regardless of whether you end up with a booth or table, try to avoid being seated near the kitchen or bar. These high-traffic areas tend to be the noisiest.

  • Avoid sitting near the loudspeaker or air conditioner. A comfortable temperature and ambient music are essential to the dining experience, but sitting too close is sure to prove distracting. If you are being steered in this direction, ask your host or hostess if they can seat you elsewhere.

  • When dining with a group, position yourself in the center of the table. This ensures you are able to hear all parts of the conversation without straining to hear somebody at the opposite end.

  • Maintain eye contact with the person who is speaking. Paying close attention to visual cues can help improve your understanding in noisy environments.

  • Check out the menu before you go. Preparing in advance by previewing the menu on the restaurant’s website will ensure you know the different types of food available and how it is prepared, so you won’t misunderstand or have to ask the server to repeat him- or herself. If the restaurant has daily specials available, these are usually posted in the waiting area or on a menu supplement; if not, ask for a written copy.

By following these tips, you are likely to have a positive dining experience. You might even be tempted to hang around for dessert!

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Jody Vaynshtok

Jody is a California-licensed speech language pathologist with eight years of industry and clinical experience. She has worked with both adult and pediatric populations during her time at private practice, birth-to-three, and hospital facilities. She is experienced in the assessment and treatment of a variety of communication and cognitive disorders. In addition, Jody has a passion for working with adults looking to achieve clearer communication. Jody received her BS in Speech and Hearing Sciences and MS in Medical Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Washington. She was a part of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford’s cleft and craniofacial clinic participating in the multidisciplinary assessment and treatment of children born with craniofacial abnormalities. She holds a staff position at UCSF and is the lead speech language pathologist for the department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery’s Hearing Loss Clinic. When she's not busy having fun with her clients Jody enjoys spending time with her husband, Anton, friends and family. And if she's not headed out somewhere fun for dinner, you might find her at Bar Method working out!