noisy-restaurant

How to Pick a Restaurant Where You Can Actually Hear Your Friend

My favorite restaurant recently underwent a big renovation. The place definitely needed an update, but I was crushed. This restaurant was my safe haven from noise. It 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 — quiet.

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 wall hangings for framed photos. I noticed the difference right away. The restaurant was now more visually appealing, but it was no longer quiet. Factor in my hearing loss, and this renovation has made dining out there quite challenging.

My favorite-restaurant experience highlighted for me the problems that anyone with hearing loss faces these days as restaurant noise levels rise, tables are pushed closer and closer together, and trendy glass and hardwood replace sound-absorbing carpet and cushioning. As I looked for a new favorite, I started thinking about what makes a restaurant good for people with hearing loss and how we can advocate for ourselves to make sure we get an acoustically friendly table.

Here are my tips for a successful experience when dining out with hearing loss. 

  1. Don’t wait to tell the restaurant about your needs. When you call to reserve and make a reservation online, note your desire for a quiet table. Then remind the restaurant if they call to confirm. This gives the staff a better chance of meeting your needs than if you walk in cold. Always mention that you have hearing loss — this often gets more attention than simply requesting a quiet location. If they seat you at a less than ideal table at first, ask for a quieter spot.Persistence can pay off.
  1. Request a table in the corner. A corner table or, failing that, a location beside a wall works best since there is a barrier between you and the noise of the restaurant. You also won’t have distracting noise behind you and will find it easier to focus on the speakers at the table. A booth is also a good choice if it has high back seats.
  1. Choose restaurants with sound absorbing decor. Carpet, curtains, cushioned chairs, cloth tablecloths and acoustic tiles are ideal. Most restaurants have websites with photos, so you can preview the decor before you go.
  1. Sit outside. If the weather allows, enjoy dining al fresco, where the noise from other diners has more space to dissipate. You’re also less likely to experience loud background music. Of course, this doesn’t apply if the outdoor seating is near loud traffic.
  1. Eat early or late. If you can avoid the crowds, the din from other diners will be lower. You’ll also be more likely to get the table that you want. And restaurants can be more willing to lower the music during off-peak hours. 
  1. Read online reviews. Many restaurant rating systems now include noise level as one of the criteria. For example, Zagat has a “Good for Quiet Conversation” search category. Yelp allows you to search for restaurant reviews that contain the word quiet. Simply type “quiet restaurants” into the Find area on the main screen. You can also Google any restaurant’s name plus “noise levels” to unearth reviews that discuss how loud the restaurant is or isn’t. 
  1. 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! Try asking on Facebook.

Readers, what tips do you have for dining out with hearing loss?

Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the board of trustees of both the Hearing Health Foundation and Hearing Loss Association of America. You can find Shari on Facebook and Twitter.

A version of this article, “How To Choose A Restaurant When You Have Hearing Loss,” was first published on Shari’s blog Living With Hearing Loss. 

 

12 comments
  • John Mahoney
    REPLY

    I liked when you talked about reading online reviews to choose a restaurant. It makes sense that taking your time to do your research can help you figure out if a restaurant is worth your time and money. I can see how anyone looking into this would want to make sure they find a place that serves the type of food they eat and are careful with allergies.

  • Samantha Rogers
    REPLY

    Taking my 5 kids out to dinner is usually a big challenge but I think it is important for them to learn proper etiquette when eating out. I liked your suggestion of dining outside, as it helps to diffuse noise. I think letting my kids practice their manners while still being talkative and having fun is a really great idea, and I would feel much better about them doing so if their conversations wouldn’t be quite so disruptive.

    • Shari Eberts
      REPLY

      Dining out with children can be difficult, but they have to learn sometime, right? Good for you for doing your best to keep it fun for them but also not too disruptive for others. Thanks for your comment.

  • Skylar Williams
    REPLY

    I’ll have to do better about calling in first. I have a bad habit of just showing up ‘cold’. My dad would appreciate it if we had a more quiet location, he does love eating outside.

  • Zequek Estrada
    REPLY

    This is some awesome advice for choosing a restaurant to eat at. Eating early or late is something I tend to do. I think that’s one of the easiest ways to avoid the crowds. It’s kinda easier to enjoy food when the noise level isn’t that high.

  • FRANK CARMEN, L.r.c.
    REPLY

    “SHARI Eberts” is correct!

    While at UCLA, I worked P/T as a Bartender in 4 different Restaurants.
    In every one where the Full Bar was in a separate Room of its own,
    (A) It was always much quieter than in the primary eating-area
    and
    (B) Management never had a problem with Customers ordering Food and then eating in the Bar.

    The Only rule was that Only Drinkers can sit at the actual Bar.

  • Laura Ehlers
    REPLY

    Excellent advice. While I don’t officially have hearing loss, I do have issues in particularly busy places where everything sort of drones together. We have found that sometimes a bar table is actually quieter. And affords some awesome people watching!

    • Shari Eberts
      REPLY

      I have had the same experience with the bar area being quieter at times too. It pays to check out all the options. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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