Improving Communication at Restaurants

Improving Communication at Restaurants

Kevin Garnett, B.S. Communication, Hearing Loss

Kevin Garnett, B.S.

If you have hearing loss, think back to one of the most challenging communication environments you have faced in the recent past. What made that setting difficult? Many people with hearing loss point to a din of many voices in the room at the same time, making it difficult to differentiate one person from the rest. Others mention background noise of other kinds, including music. Some people can point specifically to the acoustics of the architecture in a room, making it echo or reverberate with strange frequencies. Still others will mention the awkwardness of trying to talk with a stranger who is unaware of hearing needs. When you think about this combination of hearing challenges, you can understand that a restaurant can be a perfect storm for someone with hearing loss. On a busy weekend night with lots of patrons talking at once and background music to set the vibe, a person with hearing loss can struggle to have even the simplest conversation with a server. Let’s consider some of the steps that you can take before and during your next meal at a restaurant to improve your chances of effectively communicating with others. 

Before Your Meal 

There are a few things you can do before your restaurant meal to make it easier for you. First of all, be sure to call directly and make your reservation. When you call the host or hostess, mention that you have hearing loss and would like to have the quietest table possible. Not only will this person have the best understanding of the layout of the room and the dynamics of kitchen or outdoor traffic noise, but they can also pass along this information to the wait staff. Knowing that a diner has hearing loss can alert all the staff to the ways they can assist you. In addition, you might want to check out the menu prior to your meal. You can make selections prior to your visit that will limit the back-and-forth with your server. You can even ask about daily specials or dessert options over the phone before you go.

During Your Meal 

While you are at the restaurant, there are other steps you can take to make the most of your time there. When you sit down at your table, ask your fellow diners if they mind you sitting in the middle of the group. This position is the best for hearing others and isolating yourself from the voices of people at other tables. If you have a trusted loved one in the group, you might even ask for direct assistance. When a person asks a question at the other end of the table, the person right beside you is in the best position to relay that question at close proximity. When the time comes for the server to take your order, you might want to ask someone to place your order directly. If issues arise with the back-and-forth of questions, dietary restrictions, or specific options, you can trust this person to carry on that part of the conversation. If these tips are insufficient to make communication possible, you can always ask your server to turn down the background music or to help you find a better place to sit where communication will be easiest. 

The Durable Solution 

These tips can go a long way toward a more enjoyable visit to a restaurant, but in some cases they will be no match for the background noise, crosstalk, echoing architecture, and music in the room. If you find that these tips aren’t enough to make communication possible, the only durable solution for hearing loss is to get treatment from a hearing health professional. Wearing hearing aids in these environments will give you the best chance of communication possible. If you are ready to begin on the path toward hearing assistance, the first step is to schedule a hearing test. This exam will give us a full diagnostic report of your individual hearing needs and will help us pair you with the right devices to assist you. Rather than strategizing how to make the most of your visit to a restaurant, why not get the lasting help you need with hearing aids?