My favorite restaurant recently underwent a large renovation. It was necessary, as the place definitely needed an update, but I was crushed. This restaurant was my family’s haven from noise. Every Friday night, almost without fail, we enjoyed a quiet, stress free, delicious meal in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. And none of us had to worry about my hearing loss. Were we going to have to find a new place?
The restaurant was old-school Italian. It had carpeting, acoustic tiles, fancy white tablecloths and waiters from Italy. The food was outstanding and the environment was perfect for our family — quiet. Whenever friends or relatives would visit from out of town, we would take them there. We barely even looked at the menu anymore. We didn’t need to.
But then they did the renovation. They removed the carpet and installed hardwood floors. They spiffed up the bar area adding more hard surfaces and swapped some of the cloth wallhangings for framed photos. We noticed the difference right away. The restaurant was now more visually appealing, but it was also no longer as quiet as it used to be.
The good news is that we have adapted and the restaurant has been very accommodating. We are now always seated along the wall or in the corner and they are happy to turn down any music if we ask. The food and warm atmosphere are the same and it remains my family’s safe-haven dining venue. It just requires a little more forward planning to make sure we request a good seat in advance.
This experience highlighted for me the key characteristics of a good restaurant for people with hearing loss and the importance, once again, of advocating for yourself.
Here are my tips for a successful experience when dining out.
1. Provide information early. Note your desire for a quiet table in your reservation and remind the restaurant if they call to confirm. This gives them a better chance of meeting your needs than if you walk in cold. If they seat you at a less than ideal table at first, ask for a quieter spot. Persistence often pays off.
2. Request a table in the corner. A corner table or other location beside a wall works best since there is a barrier between you and the rest of the restaurant noise. This also eliminates distractions from noise behind you and lets you better focus on the speakers at the table. A booth is also often a good choice if it has high back seats.
3. Choose restaurants with sound absorbing decor. Carpet, curtains, cushioned chairs, cloth tablecloths and acoustic tiles are my decor of choice. Many restaurants today prefer hard surfaces like glass and wood. Preview the decor online or look for “old school” restaurants which may have a more classic design.
4. Read online reviews. Many restaurant rating systems now include noise level as one of the criteria. For example, Zagat now has a “Good for Quiet Conversation” search category. I am sure others do as well.
5. Ask around. I like to trade restaurant tips with my hearing loss friends and also with my hearing friends. Once you hit a certain age, everybody wants a quiet restaurant!
Readers, do you have a go-to quiet restaurant in your neighborhood?
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56 thoughts on “How To Choose A Restaurant When You Have Hearing Loss”
Thanks for the blog! I am not sure exactly what acoustic tiles look like. Could you describe?
They are usually white and fairly nondescript. They probably look like the ceiling in your elementary school from years ago. Some are a little fancier now but still basically the same idea. Hope that helps.
Acoustic tiles and panels can be very basic or very creative and colorful. Please visit – http://memtechacoustical.com/acoustic-ceiling-tiles/ for more info 🙂
Great post. We don’t know where you are located, but if you live near Manhattan (or are planning a visit) pay a visit to our website: http://www.quietcitymaps.com, where we seek out restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and public places that allow you to eat, drink, read, or chill in peace!
I will check it out! Thanks!
Reblogged this on Back in the Swirl: Meniere's , Migraines, Depression.
Alas, Shari, we seem to be living in an age where “lights, sound, action!” seem to be the driving force in attracting dining patrons. I morn the loss of your “old” dining experience. I read somewhere, that I can not recall, that the trend is research driven. Glitzy noisy places tend to move people in and out faster thereby increasing table earnings exponentially. That’s hard to argue with in the competitive dining world. I can not, however, escape the notion that there are many of us out here who would flock to your quieter “old favorite”. When I go out (less frequently now and growing more so) I go not for stimulation, but for the food and, for want of a better term, a “comfortable” experience.
I agree that asking for consideration in seating really works. Sometimes it doesn’t work too well but it does send a message that, hopefully, will someday be heard.
Thanks Jerry! You are right — it is much more profitable to blast music and turn tables faster, until your clientele moves on…. I prefer the quieter places obviously. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
On a recent trip to Boston with my husband, I did a web search for ” quiet Boston restaurants”. I came across a link to the local Boston chapter of the HLAA: http://www.hearinglossboston.org/quiet-restaurant-meet-ups/.
They provided a great list of several restaurants in the city with quiet atmospheres. We tried two of the restaurants on their list. Both lived up to their promise and we had a nice dinner and great conversation both nights.
I hope in the future more HLAA chapters provide this sort of information for the benefit of both their local members and to visitors with hearing loss.
What a wonderful idea! Thank you for suggesting it.
Great blog Shari. I’m the CEO of Action on Hearing Loss in the UK (the new name for the Royal National Institute for Deaf People) and we are just about to launch a campaign around noise and accesibility for people with hearing loss in restaurants. It would be great to keep in touch about this and share experiences from the US and UK – if you are interested then find me on Twitter @pbreckell or e-mail me email@example.com
Thanks for connecting Paul. I will email you later today.
This is helpful to think about. BTW, have you heard of a show called “Switched at Birth?” It’s family drama about two families with teen daughters. (Yes, their lives connect when they learn the two were–wait for it–switched at birth). I find surprisingly appealing. Anyway, I mention it because some of the characters are hard of hearing. The show makes me realize how hard of hearing people are nonexistent on TV. It’s SO refreshing to have these individuals featured along with the hearing characters.
Yes, thank you. Good show.
I know I say this to you frequently but thank you thank you thank you. This is something I tried to consider with regards to my sister but I didn’t have the tools or information I really needed.
Thanks for reading and helping to spread the word. The more people know about hearing loss, the more they can help.
Wow! This is very good to know…my best friend has hearing loss. Between her and me being gluten-free…restaurant visits are tough.
Thanks for all the tips. My husband, usually a vibrant center of every conversation, has been losing his hearing (hearing aids help up to a point and, of course, not particularly well in restaurants). and really struggles to follow conversation–no less join in–in restaurants. So difficult to find one where you can have a grown up conversation without shouting and where he isn’t picking up ambient noise. We usually request a quiet table when we book a table, as you suggest. I’m going to check out HLAA and see if they have a guide to quiet places in the Washington, D.C. area where I live.
Good idea. Also look at Zagat’s for quiet conversation restaurants. Many are expensive but there can be a few moderately priced gems there too.
The loss of carpeting is huge in letting the noise out. I have seen reviews on Yelp that mention a restaurant is noisy or loud. I been in a few that have said that and almost yelling is needed!
I loved the carpet but the restaurant said it was hard to keep clean.
Love this Shari. Even without hearing loss, I get very stressed in a noisy restaurant and it seems like so many of the ‘cool’ places have hard surfaces everywhere. We have a new place in our town that installed sound absorbing panels in the ceiling, making it part of the decor and it is delightful. Hardwood floors and conversation make a great combo. Great post.
Thanks for reading and your comment. Panels on the ceiling are a big help! I wish all restaurants would add them.
Terrific essay! I have a problem with background noise for the opposite reason — my hearing is too acute. Can’t tolerate a noisy restaurant. Way too much sound. Here’s my take on the Noisy Bistro trend: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/booming/a-quiet-meal-polluted-by-noise.html?_r=0
I like your piece as well! I wish restaurants would start to get the message. Thanks for reading.
Hi…I have a hearing loss and find it difficult to go out to eat…I have recently lost more hearing. ..so the noise makes it hard….thanks..any suggestions. ..
Hope these tips help. There are also personal devices like Roger pens that might help if your hearing aids work with them. Good luck!
Thank you for your wonderful blog. This post in particular is such a useful idea. I have included a link to it from the resources page of my website as I think that it is so helpful and unique. Many thanks!
Thank you for sharing it!
Thank you for this post! Restaurants are sometimes my worst nightmares.
Wow, I had never thought about simply asking for a corner table. I have hearing loss, and want to find a place where I can hear my kids while eating dinner. I hadn’t thought about asking for a corner table, but I can see how it would be much quieter. Thanks for the advice!
Glad to help! It makes a big difference for me. Thanks for your comment.
There is a great new smart phone app called iHEARu that will allow you to sample sounds at restaurants and other venues and it will then be given a “hearing loss friendly” rating to allow hard of hearing or deaf customers to make better informed choices.
Thanks for sharing the information! Here is their webpage: http://www.ihearu.co
I was in a car accident about two months ago that left me with some substantial hearing loss, and this can sometimes make it difficult to have conversations. I am planning a business meeting over lunch for next week, so I want to make sure I choose the right restaurant so I can hear. You make a great point that I should request a table in the corner so that there is a barrier between us and the rest of the restaurant. This way it will block out a lot of the noise.
I am glad the article was helpful. Good luck with your meeting!