Hearing loss and eating out

Eating out at cafés, pubs, and restaurants with friends and family can be a challenging experience if you have hearing loss.

Nonetheless, it is important to socialise and keep in touch with family for our mental health and wellbeing, and to avoid isolation that it can bring.

There are several ways you can make your social experience as enjoyable as possible. Here are some excellent tips by our volunteer Sylvia:

Planning ahead

  • Always carry a spare

If you use hearing aids, it is a good idea to change your hearing aid batteries before departing. This will reduce the risk of a sudden failure when you are enjoying your meal or drink.

Carrying a mini kit of spare hearing aid batteries, filters and a cleaning tool is invaluable when you are away from home for those ‘just in case’ moments.

  • Make sure you’re fully charged

If your hearing aids are rechargeable, then make sure these are fully charged before you leave.

If you use a personal listener, streaming device or table microphone linked to your hearing aids, make sure they are charged to prevent any loss in performance.

  • Useful tech and apps

A notebook and pen are also useful for those moments when communication might break down or a small LCD eWriter, such as those available on our online shop, are reusable and lightweight.

Another communication tool to consider is a speech-to-text app for your mobile phone which helps to translate your conversations as they happen. For more information on current apps available, visit our technology pages.

  • Choose wisely

If you can choose the café, pub or restaurant, you plan to visit, a little preparation can help. Either visit in person beforehand and book a quiet table away from the bar, kitchen, coffee machine and windows. You could also email the establishment with your request.

There is also a helpful tool available on Google Maps which can advise when a location may be busier than normal.

If you can’t book in advance, then aim to arrive early so you can influence the seating.

  • Lighting

Candlelight might be atmospheric when dining, but it’s unsuitable for helping you to lipread well, so be sure to choose somewhere well-lit to support your communication needs if visiting a venue in the evening.

Good lighting aides lipreading, so sit where you can see people’s faces clearly, not with a bright light or sunlight in your eyes.

Consider the timing of your visit. It could work to your advantage, if you book early evening or quiet periods of the day, so the environment is brighter.

The venue

  • Seating

Wherever you choose to sit in a restaurant, pub or café is a question of personal preference.

Some people prefer to sit with their back to a wall while others prefer to have the other members of the party with their back to the wall.

  • Background noise

If there is a loudspeaker nearby and the music is causing too much background noise, then ask for it to be turned down. Even people without hearing loss may prefer it quiet as well.

A tip worth trying is to turn down the volume on your hearing aid because it is competing with surrounding noise and that tends you make you raise your voice, but hear less well.

If you have a ‘comfort programme’ on your hearing aid that will help to block out background noise and allow you to focus on speech.

By experimenting, you can see what works best for you, but be aware that each situation is not identical; therefore, you will need to adjust accordingly.

  • Listening buddy

If possible, enlist the support of a ‘listening buddy’, someone who can fill you in on the missing bits of conversation.

In a café or restaurant, it is not easy to eat and lipread at the same time, but you need to achieve a balance to enjoy a meal. Be honest about it as people are understanding if they are made aware. Between courses is a good time to focus on conversation.

  • Be confident

Finally, having prepared as best you can, go with an attitude that you will not allow your hearing loss to prevent you from experiencing the pleasure of social engagement.

It might not always work as well as hoped, but the next time could exceed your expectations. It becomes less daunting with practice.

The important thing is to have realistic expectations and to socialise irrespective of hearing loss.

If you are looking for support for your hearing and want to speak to someone who understands, our Helpdesk team is here to help. Contact us today.

Webpage updated: February 2023

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