Eating outW e love eating out, but it can present challenges for people who are hard of hearing. A noisy environment, lots of people at a table, servers who are difficult to hear – we all have our pet peeves. Here are some restaurant strategies for you that can make dining out easier:

  • Choose the time carefully when you go out to eat. Plan to arrive before, or after, the restaurant’s busy time.
  • Choose the restaurant carefully. Avoid restaurants where lots of noise and loud music are part of the ‘atmosphere’. Choose restaurants that are well lit and have good acoustics (table cloths, curtains, carpet etc.). For a selection of quiet restaurants in Calgary, read the article by John Gilchrist published in the Calgary Herald.
  • Choose where you sit in a restaurant. Ask for a quiet table or booth (best!) away from speakers and other noise sources, perhaps at the edge of the restaurant or in a corner. If you are reserving ahead, specify this kind of table.
  • Choose your spot at the table. Try to sit with your back to the wall, or facing into the action where you can see servers approaching. If you have a “good ear”, sit where this ear can hear what is going on at your table. Finally, sit with your back to the window so that the light is on your companions’ faces.
  • If necessary, let servers know you are hard of hearing and instruct them about how to speak to you, or ask them to write. Check the specials or menu board ahead of time and order as specifically as possible to reduce the number of questions that you, or the server, will have to ask. Anticipate what’s coming next.
  • Ask for more light if you need it. Ask for the music to be turned down. Politely explain your problem; hearing people will still be able to hear the music when it is turned down to a level that doesn’t bother you.
  • In a fast food restaurant where they call out numbers, stay close to the front and watch for your number, or explain that the server should wave or find your table.
  • Assistive Listening Devices such as a personal FM system can be a major hearing help in restaurants. The correct device will eliminate much background noise and bring your companion’s voice right to your ears. Read more about Assistive Listening Devices.
  • Dining with a large group will always be difficult. Our best advice is to sit beside someone whose voice you know and understand and who you also know would be willing to “clue you in” if you lose track of the conversation.

You can find this advice and more in the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association’s video, Sound Ideas.


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