Saturday, May 2, 2020

Dining Out With Hearing Loss #diningout #hearingloss #copingstrategies #adaptandhavefun

Some U.S. states are currently reopening restaurant dining rooms as their coronavirus stay-home rules gradually ease. That means you might be ready to dine out again -- only you can make that determination for yourself. Dining out can be especially stressful for people -- including me -- who are hearing impaired and/or wear a hearing aid. Today, The Weekend Gourmet's correspondent is sharing tips to make dining out easier for the hearing impaired. This post may contain affiliate links.
Eating out and socializing can be a stressful experience for most people. Many restaurants today have decor featuring bare hardwood flooring, mirrors on every wall, and plenty of chrome and metals. While aesthetically pleasing, it can be a nightmare for someone who suffers from impaired hearing. All of these surfaces reflect noise rather than absorbing it, leading to a loud cacophony of sounds bouncing around the dining space. Throw in background music; the clanging of cutlery, glasses, and plates; as well noisy background conversations -- and you can have a noisy, overwhelming environment.

Many people without hearing issues struggle to hear the sound of their companion talking or their server reading out the menu specials. Imagine what it's like for someone who is hearing impaired. Because of the noise level, many people with hearing loss avoid going out to eat. However, careful planning -- and a bit of confidence to ask for what you need dining out can be a positive experience! In this post, we'll examine steps you can take to successfully dine in a restaurant.
Image credit: Pixabay CC0 License

Do Some Research
While there are very few truly ‘quiet’ restaurants, it's possible to find one that isn’t on the same noise level as a rock concert! Before you head to a restaurant, do some research online. These days, it's possible to find lots of honest reviews. Look for reviews that specifically mention noise levels. Ask for recommendations from friends and the hearing loss community. Bottom line: there's no recommendation quite like a personal one!

Talk to the Restaurant Beforehand
When you or a fellow diner calls or sends a message to make a dinner reservation, mention that you suffer from hearing loss, wear hearing aids (if applicable to you), and ask for a table in one of the restaurant's quieter areas. If you speak to the restaurant again before your meal, be sure to reiterate your needs. This greatly increases the likelihood of your request being fulfilled -- certainly much more so than if you were a walk-in customer. When you arrive at the restaurant, remind the server one last time. If they give you a table that doesn't suit your needs, ask to be moved. Most restaurants will be happy to help you.

Ask for a Table In the Corner...or a Round Table
Corner tables or those around the walls are typically quieter than tables located in the middle of the dining space. This is because there's a barrier between you and the rest of the restaurant. Sitting with your back to the wall also limits any distracting noises from behind you. If a table in the corner isn't practical, ask for a round table instead. This will make group conversations much more accessible. All members of your party will be facing forward; as they speak, their voices will be projected towards the middle of the table. Being able to see every face at your table also makes it easier if you rely on visual cues or speech reading.

Look for Restaurants with Classic Decor
As mentioned above, modern and minimalist decor looks great...but they're not so good for the room's acoustics. Look for restaurants with older, classic interiors -- i.e., carpet, heavy drapes, cushioned seats, and tablecloths. Search for images of the restaurant online before your visit so you know what to expect.

Don't Be Embarrassed to Ask for What You Need
If you can’t hear your dinner companions or your server over the restaurant's music, ask the server or manager to either turn it down or move you to a quieter table. Ask if you can see the specials menu in writing rather than guessing what your server is saying. Hearing loss is an invisible condition --unless you advocate for what you need, people won’t know. A good restaurant will work hard to make it as accessible as possible for all diners and make them feel welcome. If they don’t, make a point of not visiting again...and be sure to let people know how unhelpful they were.

Don’t let hearing loss stop you from enjoying experiences like eating out at a restaurant with your friends and family. Your might need to be assertive when it comes to having your needs met...but you can enjoy the experience just as much as anyone else!

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