What You Don’t Hear in Restaurants

Meandering Through A Hearing World

I can’t remember the last time I heard a waiter or waitress in a restaurant. Ten years? Maybe longer? My husband and I eat out at least once a week, sometimes more. We tend to frequent the same restaurants, our favorites we call them. But even in familiar places, we find hearing difficult. Let’s face it all restaurants are noisy places.

No matter where we go my experience in restaurants is pretty much the same. After the hostess seats us, a perky man or woman will come around and start speaking at a rate faster than superman can fly. They run down a list of food and drink specials while my husband and I sit there dazed. They end it all with, “Can I get you something to drink?” These are the only words we seem to understand. Who doesn’t need a glass of wine after trying to listen to all that!

I gave up on the idea of asking restaurant personnel to repeat. Between a chorus of voices and ambient background noise, I end up asking multiple questions, usually hearing very little. Instead, I lose myself in the menu. While the waiter is off getting our drinks, I ask my husband to run down the list of dinner specials. If he didn’t understand what was said, he takes charge. When our waiter returns with our drinks, he gets to the heart of the matter by forcing the person serving us to slow down enough for him to hear. He expects me to listen, too, as I should. Now and then I do pick up enough to understand what is being said.

I’ve noticed that some restaurants are including a menu insert with the nightly specials written out. Oh how that helps. If only more restaurants did the same. I also wish there were quieter areas, tables situated in corners or against walls to make hearing easier. I’ve become known to the management of some of the restaurants we frequent. When I ask for a corner booth, they know exactly where I want to sit. This happened the other night when we were out with another couple. We all enjoy a seafood place not far from where we live. When the hostess, (she’s been there for years) greeted me and said, “We have your booth ready for you,” I could have wrapped my arms around her. Knowing I would be able to hear my friends and husband made the evening more pleasurable.

You wouldn’t think such little things would make a big hearing difference but they do. Being able to read the specials of the evening in a restaurant eliminates a host of questions and adds to one’s enjoyment. Being seated in a corner or up against a wall, helps to eliminate background noise and makes conversation easier.

I never find going out to eat easy, even when it’s just my husband and I. When you suffer from hearing loss all you want is peace and quiet and familiarity, a place where you can hear. When I receive an invitation to dine out with friends or when my husband suggests that we eat out, I’m tempted to say let’s do take out.

There’s nothing wrong with a night in. Nor is there anything wrong with a night out. So for those out there who lean toward eating at home because it’s a safer hearing environment, I say, pick yourself up out of your chair and get dressed. A food and drink adventure awaits. While meandering through the hearing world, you shouldn’t miss out on an opportunity to socialize.

P.S. I’ll be away for the next few weeks. The column will resume June 10.

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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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