Dining out when you have hearing loss
When engaging in listening, we concentrate on one sound while naturally separating background noise. This is particularly difficult for those who have hearing loss.
For first time hearing aid users, you may suddenly experience everyday sounds that did not irritate you before. This could be overwhelming due to the vast amounts of noises that we encounter in our daily lives.
Loud restaurants are especially difficult. According to Zagat, the average American dines out approximately five times per week, and excessive noise is their number one complaint.
The reality is that in the modern world, public areas are louder. The New York Times recorded the issue in 2012 by measuring the tumultuous sounds in bars, restaurants, gyms, and stores around the city, a total of 37 areas. They reported that one third of these places were so loud, that the volume levels put their employee’s hearing health at risk.
What can hearing aid users do?
Keep your hearing aids on, and use the device’s features. Modern hearing aids can help reduce background noise.
If you suffer from hearing loss in both ears, you should wear a hearing aid in each ear in order to recognize where the sound is emanating from and to filter out any distracting noises. All modern hearing aids let you control your settings and filter out noises from your smartphone. This is called digital signal processing (DSP). It was created to identify background noise and reduce its volume. Other standard features are the directional microphones. These microphones will pick up sound depending on which area you are facing. You can select a setting where the microphones will focus on sounds that are produced in front of you, instead of behind you.
Your hearing aid volume is NOT like your TV volume
A TV remote control raises and lowers all sounds in an equal manner. On the other hand, a hearing aid’s volume control can raise and lower soft and high-frequencies, which may be more difficult for people to understand.
Since most of speech is spoken in low frequency levels, raising the volume could make it more difficult to hear a conversation.
It’s important to get your hearing tested and speak to a professional for guidance.
Using an assistive listening device
The best settings could depend on the environment you are in and where you decide to sit. In some circumstances, you can use an assistive listening device, like FM technology. This is available in two pieces: a receiver that can be worn around your neck, and a transmitter that you can place in front of the speakers that you want to hear from.
Telecoils and hearing loops
You may use the telecoil (t-coil) setting where ever hearing loops are available. When you switch it on, you will be able to hear sounds that broadcast into the facility’s audio system via wireless signal that’s transmitted into your hearing aid. This option allows public announcements or stage performances to be more easily understood by the hearing aid user.
Be knowledgeable about noisy restaurants when dining out
Many high-end restaurants started removing sound-muffling carpets and tablecloths in the late nineties. The rooms were built smaller and the bars were built larger, while loud music that reached up to 90 decibels would blare throughout the restaurant.
Use the SoundPrint app to find a quiet place to eat at. The creator of this app, Gregory Scott Farber, who has permanent hearing loss due to having meningitis as an infant, describes that app as Yelp reviews for noise. The app lets you take decibel measurements, report your findings, and view a “quiet list” in 11 cities based on the data that was collected.
Farber was the co-author of a study on 2,376 Manhattan restaurants from 2015 to 2017. Using the app, the study discovered that about 31% of mainstream restaurant and 60% of bars reach noise levels during the busiest hours and days that are possibly dangerous to the hearing health of employees and patrons.
Farber discovered that the quieter restaurants tended to be Chinese, Indian, and Japanese restaurants.
A good sign of a quiet restaurant is seeing carpets, plants and tables that have wide tables spaced.
Eat at an earlier time
Most restaurants are not as busy and quieter prior to the 7 pm rush. Five o’clock in the evening is a good time to try at a place that is normally loud.
Notify your host and waiters
Request a quiet table from the host, preferably somewhere away from the bar or where the bussers place the dishes.
Before you are seated, be sure that the lighting is bright enough so that you can see your dining companions’ faces.
Move to a more comfortable spot if you cannot see, if you are by a speaker, or near a drunken crowd. If the music is playing too loudly, ask to have it turned down. If they do not comply, ask to speak to a manager.
Engage in listening exercises to be better prepared to distinguish the differences between certain sounds.
If you, or a loved one, would like to have an easier time navigating through background noise, contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids and talk to one of our hearing instrument specialists for a solution for your particular needs.