Hearing loss & eating out

Eating out at cafes or restaurants with family and friends can be a challenging experience if you have a hearing loss. But don’t let that put you off. With a few simple tips you can ensure your meal is a relaxed and enjoyable affair.

Before you leave

Remember to put new new batteries into your hearing aids before you leave, or at the very least be sure to have a spare set of batteries with you. No need to worry about being left out of things just because the batteries die.

Choosing a cafe or restaurant

When it comes to choosing where to eat, if you can, choose a place where things are good for you.

When booking ask for a quiet table (away from the bar and/or kitchen). Say that you’d like to be able to sit with your back to a wall, and tell them why you’re asking. A good restaurant will be helpful if they can be. Tablecloths for example, will help deaden background noise somewhat.

Eating earlier in the evening may be a quieter experience than later, when the noisy crowds arrive. A well lit establishment is also preferable, whether windows with plenty of natural light or electric lighting. Candlelight may be atmospheric but it doesn’t make for easy lipreading.

Once you get to the cafe or restaurant

If you can’t book in advance and tell them of your requests, try to get there early as this will give you the opportunity to choose the seating that is best for you.

Consider asking for a table in the quieter area, in a corner spot, away from a busy kitchen, and door, with your back to a wall, (although some people prefer to face a wall so that they have less visual distractions) allowing you to see the faces of your dinner companions.

A round table allows good visibility for everyone. Avoid sitting where you are facing a bright light. If there is background music playing, don’t be afraid to ask for it to be turned down or even off altogether. You may find that the staff and other customers really appreciate this too!

You may also find that it helps to turn the volume on your hearing aid down. Try all the programmes you have and see which suits you in each different environment.

Remember, it is a good idea to explain why you need these changes, both to the restaurant staff and as your dining companions. Most will be very understanding and happy to do what they can to help. Take the opportunity to teach family and friends good communication techniques. Staff at the restaurant will learn to be more aware when it comes to dealing with other customers with hearing loss.

Useful technology

If you have the means, investing in a personal listeners and FM systems can be big help in these kinds of scenarios. Placing the microphone component in the middle of the table enables you to hear everyone and reduce any background noise. Alternatively, you can place the microphone on or near the person you wish to speak with and focus on their voice.

Lipreading and eating

Lipreading while eating isn’t easy, nor is lipreading someone who is eating! So consider that perhaps it best to save the talking to in between courses. After all, most of us were taught that it was rude to talk while eating anyway. Having a hearing loss does not mean not having a social life. All it takes is a few simple changes and accommodations as outlined above. Good luck!

If you find a good restaurant, please tell them and , if you’re able, review them on social media (Trip Advisor etc) so that other deaf/Deaf people can benefit.

Join a lipreading class

If possible, find a Lipreading and managing hearing loss class – all ATLA (Association of Teachers of Lipreading to Adults) qualified teachers will include all the above ideas, and many more, in their classes.

Webpage reviewed: November 2022

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