If you wear hearing aids or have untreated hearing loss, you are intimately familiar with how hard it can be to have an easy conversation with someone in a restaurant. Between the dishes, inevitably poor acoustics, and the conversations of other diners, it’s no wonder there is more eating than talking. Although there are no perfect solutions, there are a few ways you can make the experience more pleasant.

Why the restaurant is a universally difficult place to hear

  1. Lots of hard surfaces in what is typically a very large room. All of the sounds in the restaurant bounce off all the surfaces and strike your microphones at fractionally different times.
  2. Hearing aids are incredible devices that connect you to conversations like nothing else. Unfortunately, they don’t know who or what you are listening to at any given moment. Therefore, any nearby voices are amplified.
  3. Where you sit is more often than not determined by the host/hostess. Unfortunately, this can mean you will be sandwiched between the kitchen and a group of friends who appear not to have seen each other in a few years.
  4. That lady three tables over never learned to modulate the volume of her voice.

Okay, I was being a little silly with that last one, but the point holds. When you eat at a restaurant, you are at the mercy of the architect, designer, patrons, and seating arrangements. Obviously, you can’t control any of these things, but you do have some power.

Tips to help you hear better while dining out

  1. Ask to be seated away from the kitchen and foyer, and then firmly plant yourself with your back to the room. Remember, you always want the stuff you don’t want to hear behind you.
  2. Sit directly across from the person you most want to chat with.
  3. Do not sit facing a window. The sunlight will make it harder to see the face of the person you are talking to.
  4. Ask your partner to slow down their speech just a little.
  5. If your hearing aids have the capability to do so, set them in “directional” mode.
  6. Ask the server to present the specials in writing.
  7. Don’t give up. Yes, it is definitely easier to push back from the table ever so slightly and spend the remainder of the evening smiling and nodding. But it is decidedly more rewarding to stay engaged in the conversation, even if that means you have to work a little harder.

Short of you wearing headphones and giving the other person a microphone, there is no perfect solution for listening in a restaurant. But with a little planning and purposefulness, you can definitely enjoy it a little more.

Stay Vibrant!