People with hearing loss have long complained about the clatter and chatter at busy (popular) restaurants. Let's face it, when you have to shout to place your order with the waiter, it's too loud for anyone. For folks with hearing loss, the noise levels in some restaurants take all the fun out of sharing dessert.
So what can restaurants do to help those with hearing loss and what can persons with hearing loss do to help themselves?
Restaurants Lower Sound Levels
Launching a successful restaurant business is tough any time, tougher still in this uncharted economy. Success in the restaurant industry often rests on the little things – linen table cloths, attentive staff and, oh yeah, the ability to hear your companions without shouting. That's always nice.
So today, new restaurants and old favorites are turning down the sound through the use of sound-deadening materials. One restaurant in Dallas added cork ceilings. They look cool and they absorb sound like a sponge.
Restaurant owners are addressing the problem of noise in other ways. Fabric-covered walls lower the volume while you enjoy the best Thai food in the tri-state area, and carpeted floors suck up sound so you can enjoy not only the food, but the chit-chat among friends and family.
The noise levels in many restaurants reach the threshold of pain – plaster walls, tiled floors and hard ceilings send sound waves bouncing every which way, creating a din that can reach sound pressure levels produced by a jet engine. It's not fun for anyone, and restaurant owners are looking for ways to keep diners coming in while they keep background sounds down in the comfort zone.
Hearing Aids for Fine Dining
Today's hearing aids adapt their settings to a range of listening environments – including noisy restaurants. You don't have to unplug or turn down the volume when dining out. Your hearing aids are automated to enable you to hear your dinner companions, take part in the conversation, enjoy a fine meal and not leave with a raging, noise-induced headache.
Let's look at today's hearing aids – hardware wired for quality sound.
Directional microphones consist of two microphones working together to reduce unwanted noise in your environment. How they work is the front microphone amplifies what you want to hear, such as your friend across the table at a restaurant. The back microphone picks up "noise" occurring behind you and instead of amplifying it, reduces it to improve overall comfort and your ability to hear what you want to hear. Consider it a "must-have" feature if dining out is a favorite recreational activity.
Ask your audiologist or hearing aid practitioner about directional microphones. You want this feature.
Automated Noise Reduction
When using hearing aids in an noisy environment background noise not only can interfere with what you want to hear, but also cause you discomfort. Automated Noise Reduction automatically detects "noise" present in your environment and reduces the level of the noise while still amplifying speech you want to hear. Yes you have read this correctly; hearing aids can now separate noise versus speech and treat them differently. Noise reduction will improve overall listening comfort and is something you want built in to your hearing aids.
And today, noise reduction can by totally automated or you can flip a switch for manual override. You adjust your hearing aids to fit the scene and your senses! That's cool.
The problem with noisy restaurants isn't just sounds made by the crowd. Those sounds bounce off hard surfaces like the kitschy linoleum flooring at the vegan hotspot. Sound waves bounce off these hard surfaces to create echoes that hinder hearing in all customers, not just those with hearing loss.
The result? Difficulty understanding speech. Ask about anti-echo technology in any hearing aid purchase you consider. You want it.
Echoes are a problem in a lot of listening environments: concert halls, auditoriums, houses of worship, in fact, any large, enclosed space is likely to generate sound echoes bouncing off the high ceilings and hardwood floors.
No More Take-Out
You shouldn't have to do take-out whenever you'd like a good meal. With a little selectivity on which restaurant you choose and a wise hearing aid purchase you can still enjoy dinner out.
The good news is restaurants are listening and making acoustical improvements to their restaurants so diners can enjoy a meal without the harshness of background noise. And today's sophisticated hearing aids work hard to improve your listening satisfaction as well.
"May I take your order?"
For more information on today's digital technology, visit a hearing aid clinic near you!