An older man eats at a fancy restaurant with his wife

“Let’s go out to eat!” Dining in restaurants, like many things in our world, has changed a lot over the past several years. I remember many different types of restaurants growing up in Louisiana, but one thing was pretty common; great food in a relaxing atmosphere where you could chat and enjoy your meal and visit with your family or friends.

There were not many fast-food places. We did have a Burger King, which had a huge sign of a king sitting on top of a burger. I liked my burgers plain, and often pointed out to my siblings, that the one on the sign was plain, too (so there). Then there were the local seafood restaurants that had newspaper on the tables and a sink where you could wash your hands without having to go into one of the restrooms. I also remember white tablecloth restaurants with carpet on the floors and curtains on the windows. There might be soft music playing and soft-footed waiters who took your orders, brought your food, did not rush you and never asked “are you still working on that?”

Restaurants now are rarely places where you can relax and chat while dining. Almost all restaurants are franchises with lots of stuff on the walls, multiple screens showing sports, news, or music videos. If there are no screens, the music will be LOUD. They are simply not designed to be places to relax. The atmosphere is busy, noisy with high energy. Why? Because you will order quickly, eat faster and clear your table more quickly for the next patron to occupy. More turning of tables means more profit for the business.

Everybody has trouble understanding conversation in noisy restaurants. If you are hearing-impaired, it can be even more frustrating. In high noise, even with normal hearing, it will be hard to hear the person across from you, much less someone who is at the other end of the booth or table. Here are some tips to maximize your understanding in noisy restaurants:

  1. Choose your restaurant wisely. Trendy, open plan places with high ceilings may look pretty, but the acoustics are awful with lots of echo and reverberance. Restaurants with tablecloths, carpets and curtains will have better acoustic environments for chatting. They may be more expensive, but your overall experience may be better. Small, family owned restaurants are often less noisy and may have better acoustics.
  2. Sit on the perimeter of the room. Avoid the middle areas, where there will be tables around you, people walking around you etc.
  3. Avoid sitting near the kitchen, as it is the noisiest place in a restaurant.
  4. Sit in a booth with high backs if possible. The high backs and upholstery will provide some dampening of noise.
  5. If you are wearing hearing aids, sit with your back to the noise, as this will allow the noise reduction features to work best. It’s also helpful for your dining companion to sit with their back to a wall, as their voice will be the only thing coming toward you (and your hearing aid microphones).

We all want to enjoy a meal at a nice restaurant sometimes. Use these suggestions to make it a better experience for you and your loved ones.