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Touring the Restaurant with Hearing Loss

Good afternoon and welcome to a session of Hearing Loss LIVE!’s Tour of the Hearing World. Let’s tour the restaurant with a hearing loss, which can be quite the challenge!

Join us as we travel through the land of the hearing, where English sounds like a foreign language…especially as waiters rattle off restaurant specials too fast for our hard of hearing ears. In this world, people don’t look at us while talking, which is essential to people with hearing loss. Also in this world, there are people who mumble and talk with their mouth full of food as we try to lipread. Together, we will dodge communication disasters creating more awareness as we go.

Pick your best seat (never feel guilty about picking your best seat) and enjoy our tour through the land of the Hearies, who don’t speak Hard of Hearing and do not understand the limits of hearing aids.

Today you have two of us as tour guides, Chelle and Julia! Two guides for the price of one! Today’s exploration is the restaurant…with hearing aids. Does it sound scary to you?  Restaurants are so awful that some hearing aid manufacturers have a dedicated setting called “restaurant”. We’re going to tuck you under our wing so you can observe the process with us. Julia will give us some hearing insight along the way. 

  • Ready?
  • Set?
  • Go!
We’ll meet you at the local eatery, Stella Grill.

Chelle: I pull into the parking lot a little ahead of Julia. (It’s a HOH habit to be early.) Since the weather is decent, I wait in the parking lot for her. If the weather isn’t severe, wait outside to enjoy those last moments of peace before entering the NOISE.

Chelle, who has hearing loss, has short brown curly hair. Julia has short blond straight hair and her glasses are on her head. Both are smiling outside the restaurant they are about to go in for lunch.
Hello, join us!

I’m a reader and that means I’m always looking around for signs and written information. When I ate here last month, I did not see a “wait to be seated” sign so my husband and I sat ourselves. Oops! The waiter let us know we were naughty. This time, Julia and I wait.

Confession

Before sitting down, let me confess I cannot tolerate the extra noise in restaurants with my current hearing aids. The excess noise has me clenching my teeth and I’m totally distracted from conversation with all the NOISE, even with a special hearing aid program. Glasses clinking. Silverware clattering. Plates crashing. Music. Lots of people talking over the music. Argh! I take my hearing aids out and use my lipreading strategies instead. This is a personal choice.

Most of my friends with hearing loss would never go without their hearing aids in social settings, including restaurants. They also have newer hearing aids than I do so they can tweak the programs in their smartphone apps. My 8 year old hearing aids do not have that option. To each his/her own! My suggestion, use what works best for you.  

Julia is giving me a little wave. Let’s see what she has to say.

Julia: Hearing partners can help by letting their HoH make the decision about wearing hearing aids or not at restaurants or outings. Why? Better communication outcomes. If going out to eat is one of your favorite things to do, what communication adaptations can you implement to continue enjoying such events? Work together for solutions. If noise is an issue, why not try going during off hours?

Chelle: Thank you Julia for your support, understanding and the tip. Bravo! 

Choose Your Best Table

A little foresight while we’re waiting to be seated. The last time I was here I sat on this side of the restaurant: 

A side of the restaurant that looks like it could have been a car lube business at one point. Open ventilation snakes across the ceiling. There's a big door with chains to open it up. Hard wood floors. Lots of window. A row of booths down the middle of the room.  The reverberation in this room makes it very hard on people with hearing loss.
Great lighting!

It was well lit but NOISY with reverberation, even my hearing husband had trouble understanding me. I did fine with lipreading. As we left, both my husband and I noticed a huge difference between the rooms. The sound was dampened on this side. This time I’ll request sitting on the other side of the restaurant.

This side of the restaurant shows a dark ceiling with hanging yellow lamps. The floor is made up of stone. There's open tables to the left and booths to the right. This room in the restaurant is easier on people with hearing loss.
Better on everyone’s ears.

*Note: Did you know we lose our sense of direction with hearing loss? Restaurants are particularly hard on people with hearing loss, especially in large groups. Let’s plan on talking one at a time. If we raise a hand before speaking, we’re able to locate who’s talking. 

Did you know you can request where to sit? No? This is a part of being proactive with your hearing loss. Take charge! Pick a corner away from the big table of loud people. Corners are always wonderful. Stay away from the kitchen area if possible. Be sure to look for good lighting and that  your hearing partner’s face is not back lit. If you’re in a large group, see if you can’t sit in a circle instead of a long rectangle table. 

The hostess is ready to lead us to the table. I ask her if we can sit on this side of the restaurant. She stops and points to the table right about where we want to be. Perfect. I’ve never had anyone tell me no. 

Look for the specials!

Oh look, there’s the board with the day’s specials written right behind us. I always look for that too because serving staff tends to recite those specials at 100 mph.  

Finding the special at the restaurant. Specials are hand written on a blackboard with chalk. The soup has nothing listed. Pasta salad is Szechuan CHX, Specials listed is apple cider mule. Mint pesto goat Cheese with smiley face. Roasted Butternut bacon walnut salad.

Julia and I sit down. I take what I think is my best seat and choose wrong. It doesn’t take me long to feel that my eyebrows are drawn down and my eyes are feeling squinty. I’m on extra focus mode because her face is in the shadows. I ask her to trade me places and she does. Much better!

Julia smiling, glasses still on top of her head. She's wearing a black shirt and has her arms folded in front of her.
Julia is a wonderful hearie.

(There’s so many things to watch out for in restaurants with hearing loss!)

Pay attention to the menu…

Do you all have your menu? Ah, good. I want you to read the fine print for your lunch choice. Does it come with sides? How many? Where are the sides listed?  Look at the choices and make your decision before they get there. Why? Because the less questions our serving person asks, the easier it will be on all of us. 

*Tip: Be extra proactive and view the menu online before going to the restaurant.

**Side note: They rarely list the dressings for salads. If you’re feeling adventurous, go ahead and ask. If not, there’s always ranch & vinaigrette dressings.

The last time I was here with my husband, the waiter began reciting the sides even though I knew what I wanted. When he got to the house pasta salad, his eyebrows shot up and wiggled around. That must be a personal favorite of his. I like trying new things so I decided to go with that in lieu of the crispy fries. That’s a bonus when you’re a “lipreader”. We notice the small nuances. I did not regret my decision to go with his choice side. The house pasta salad had homemade noodles, yum!

That nice waiter wanders the path but he is not our server this time. We have a young guy and I inform him that I have hearing loss, I hear enough to know he’s talking but I use lipreading with my remaining hearing. He faces me and I place my order.

Be proactive! Let the restaurant serving staff know that you have a hearing loss and what you need to communicate. Help them help you.

How many of you think you read lips? I knew it, not many. Guess what, you are lipreading whether you know it or not. If you feel unsure about using the word lipreading, let them know they have to face you so you can hear them. Do they talk too fast? Ask them to slow down a bit, they will if they want that tip.

*Special announcement

Check out Hearing Loss LIVE! events to find out when our next lipreading classes start. Our lipreading classes have a two for one special because our hearing partners benefit a great deal from understanding the lipreading process too.

Meanwhile, as Julia and I wait for our food, we take pictures and wander the restaurant. She too notices a huge difference in the acoustics between the different rooms. We can’t really pick out why except maybe less windows. It’s odd!

Have you paid attention to acoustics? Acoustics in restaurants are on everyone’s ears, especially those with hearing loss. Restaurants are often built for the eye and to be easy to clean. Rarely are they made to please the ear, making especially hard on those of us with hearing loss. It’s unfortunate. Some restaurants are smart enough to put up acoustic panels and that can help a great deal.

It looks like Julia has another valuable tip for us….

Julia: Have you heard of SoundPrint? It’s a smartphone app that rates noise in different settings. Share your latest restaurant experience on Soundprint and let’s get others in the KNOW. We are better when working together!

Chelle: Let’s help each other be in the know! We can work together noting the noisy restaurants, but remember to bring awareness too. offer a solution or two if you can.

The food is here! They have such great food here. Before he leaves, the waiter asks if there’s anything else he can get for us. (This is a common question at this point so it’s easy to anticipate, easy to “hear”.) Nope, all is good and we are practically drooling looking at our Reubens. Let’s chow down!

Notes from a HoH:

Don’t be a total hearie who chews their food and talks at the same time. We can’t just listen, we read lips too. It makes it very hard to focus on what you’re saying when we are watching food jump around in your mouth. Instead of “listening”, we are now wondering if food is going to fall out of your mouth or come flying out at us. If you have just taken a big bite of your Reuben, take a moment to chew it up, swallow then take a sip of water to wash it all down. We can wait.  

Tip Him/Her!

Lunch at the restaurant with hearing loss was a success! We had some thoughtful conversation our waiter was patient and accommodating.  Let’s give him a nice tip. I like it here so I will be back. Hopefully both waiters will remember me and be just as accommodating.

Christmas decorated square with holly in the upper right and lower left corner. Red background. A picture of Chelle smiling with a Santa hat on that has white hair in upper left corner. The picture of Julia and Chelle out front of the restaurant that has the Stella sign in the background in the middle. The lower right corner has a picture of Julia with Chelle's Santa hat on.

Thank you for joining us. We hope we gave you a few good tips to you and you will venture out.

Happy Holidays to all!

If you like this blog, take a look at our blog on being Proactive.

Did you like the tour? Check our Grocery Store Tour.

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