Eating out with friends, family, and coworkers is a part of life, but it can take some maneuvering to make sure that the experience is enjoyable for everyone involved, including yourself. Luckily, there are a number of ways to ensure that you can take part in dinner conversation without resorting to writing notes on napkins.
Before planning any sort of dinner, it’s important to make sure that your partner is accommodating and understanding. Whether this is a date or a meeting with a coworker, you don’t want to dine with someone who is rude or obnoxious. Your time is valuable, and you shouldn’t spend it with people who don’t value your experience as much as their own.
However, many other factors can play into how enjoyable your dinner experience is. Even people without hearing loss might feel anxious or lost at a giant table. Here are some tips on how to make sure your dining experience is a pleasant one.
Pick a Table In The Quietest Part of the Restaurant
Background noise can be distracting, and it can make it difficult for those with hearing loss to parse out what their conversational partner is saying. Even though modern hearing aids provide excellent speech understanding in noise, we all prefer to hear our conversation partners without too much noise around us.
To avoid interference, try to choose a table far away from any sources of noise. This can include the entrance, the kitchens, or the staff room. If you can, ask for a table in a quiet area and politely request that the surrounding tables be kept clear of large groups of people. If possible, try to avoid the main throngs at peak times for lunch and dinner.
Modern hearing aids are designed in a way that they prioritize what you’re looking at. By positioning yourself in a way that puts most of the background noise behind you, you help the devices to focus on what you would like to hear.
Try to Find Good Lighting
For many hard of hearing people, seeing another person’s lips moving can help them understand what they are saying. While hearing aids convey sound accurately, the combination of visual and aural communication is a natural instinct for us. However, it can be hard to look at the other person’s face if there is dim lighting, or too much light.
Try to choose a table with ample lighting so you can see your dining partner’s face, making it easier to communicate with them visually in addition to the sound from the hearing aids.
Whether you’re basing your opinion on previous visits or a preemptive tour, try to scout out possible restaurants before making any decisions. Small, noisy diners might not be the ideal location for someone with hearing aids, and loud places like sports bars are difficult enough for people without hearing loss to have conversations in.
If you can, make reservations at a quiet restaurant. Let the staff know about your situation beforehand so they can adequately prepare. Don’t be afraid to ask for things that might help you enjoy your experience, as long as they’re feasible for them to provide. This can include quieter background music, a written list of specials, and even a specific table.
Dine in Small Groups
With too many overlapping voices, it can be difficult to find your way in the sea of conversation. For this reason, try to dine in small groups. It will make things easier for you, and your dining partners might enjoy it more too. If you do find yourself in a large group, politely ask that they speak one at a time. Chances are, reducing the number of interruptions will create a less chaotic dining situation for everyone.
There’s no shame in asking for accommodations when dining with friends, family, and coworkers, so don’t hesitate to make things easier on yourself.