Tips for Communicating in Restaurants with Hearing Aids

January 21, 2022
people having lunch

Whether you have hearing aids or not, restaurants will often seem overwhelmingly loud making communication difficult and stressful.  Restaurants have little reason to reduce noise levels because they make more money when they “turn tables”.  If people can’t sit and chat after eating their meal, they will leave allowing a new paying customer to take their place.  Hearing aids have come a long way in terms of performance in background noise, but those with hearing aids will always struggle more than those with normal hearing.  Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your hearing aids in noise:

Sit outside when possible:  The hard surfaces in most restaurants result in an echo of voices which can make a room with 50 people sound like 100.  When outside, the voices disperse ensuring that the closest voices are the most audible.

Ask for a corner away from the kitchen:  The corners of a room tend to be the least amount of noise because the listener is acoustically protected by two walls and the echo is less the closer you get to a wall.

Watch facial expressions, and use lip reading and context to supplement hearing:  Don’t expect to hear every word in a restaurant.  If hearing aids can get you hearing 7 out of 10 words, you can use context and lip reading to fill in the missing words.

Don’t Panic:  Try to relax.  The stress of communicating in restaurants can cause us to anticipate a problem before it occurs.  Stress is bad for your health and bad for your hearing.  Also, don’t immediately turn down your hearing aids because… we have already established, restaurants are NOISY!!!  Try to tolerate the noise if it’s not uncomfortable and let the hearing aids settle in.  Advanced automatic hearing aids can take up to 20 seconds to settle into an optimal setting.  You may find that with proper audibility, your brain will work to separate the target speech from the noise.

Wear your hearing aids consistently:  Part time use is a sure fire way to underperform in restaurants.  Those who wear their hearing aids only “when I need them” tend to struggle more.  The brain spends all day with the reduced sound levels of a hearing loss, then it is shocked by the increased sound levels of speech and noise with hearing aids.  Like anything else, the brain needs time and training to adapt to new sounds.  If you adapt to noises and sounds in normal environments, the jump to restaurant noise will be much easier.