By Dr. Brittany Spahr and Dr. Katie Slade, Doctors Hearing Clinic
Having a spouse or significant other with hearing loss can have its challenges. One common challenge many couples experience is dining out with someone who has a hearing loss. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many couples may be looking forward to treating their spouse to a romantic evening out. Doctors Hearing Clinic wants you to enjoy your night out and give you and your spouse a few ideas to help when planning a special evening out when one or both individuals have hearing loss.
First, start thinking about where you would want to go eat. There are a variety of different restaurants to choose from with a variety of listening environments. Try selecting a couple of restaurants that you have previously visited, or a restaurant suggested by family and friends that is known for great food and a good atmosphere. In addition to picking a restaurant with great food and a good atmosphere it is also important to pick a restaurant that has minimal noise levels and good lighting to more easily allow the conversation to be heard and seen by someone with hearing loss.
One way to help manage the noise level in the restaurant is to talk to the owner or manager, if possible. Inform the manager what day you are planning to visit their restaurant and that your significant other has hearing loss. When talking to the manager try to ask things such as: What are the quietest dinner times in your restaurant? Does your restaurant have good lighting? Are there any accommodations that can be made to sit us in a quieter section of the restaurant? Does your restaurant have music playing during dinner, and would you be able to turn it down? Most restaurants will be honest and will be happy to accommodate you the best way that they can. After explaining that your spouse has hearing loss, it is also important to inform the manager that individuals with hearing loss have more difficulty when listening in background noise. Ask the manager if you could have a booth that is in the corner of the restaurant that is not near the kitchen, bathroom, or the front door. Good lighting is important for communicating because many individuals with hearing loss rely on speechreading, or reading lips, and therefore they would need to have good visual access to their spouse’s face. The more information that can be provided to the manager the more likely the best accommodations can be made for you and your spouse.
Additionally, if your significant other has hearing aids and has a program for noisy situations, encourage them to use this program when at the restaurant. The hearing aid program reduces the background noise that is behind them and focuses more on what is in front of them so it is best if the individual isn’t sitting against the wall facing the noise. When in this program you would want to sit in a booth with your spouse’s back against the restaurant noise so the hearing aid can help block out the noise.
Once you found a restaurant that has the right communication atmosphere it is always best to make reservations. Sitting in the waiting area with everyone so close can make for a hard listening environment, so having a reservation would help avoid communicating with a lot of background noise. If the restaurant does not take reservations try to arrive early to avoid the crowds.
When talking to your spouse try to talk slowly. If they have misheard what was said try to ask what they did hear so you don’t have to repeat the entire conversation and can just fill in the missing pieces. As mentioned earlier, many individuals rely heavily on reading lips to fill in the missing information so make an effort to not have your hands or napkin covering your mouth so they can clearly see your lips and mouth. Most of all, don’t forget to be patient, enjoy each other’s company, and best of all…celebrate with dessert!
Call Doctors Hearing Clinic to find out how you can sweeten communication this Valentine’s Day. We wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day! If there are any questions regarding hearing aid programs for noise or any additional communication strategies please do not hesitate to contact our office at (334) 396-1635.
Content adapted from Captel: http://www.captel.com/news/hearing-loss/planning-romantic-dinner-significant hearing-loss/
Dr. Katie Slade is a Board Certified Audiologist and a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology. Dr. Brittany Spahr is a Doctor of Audiology and a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology. Amy Davis is a Doctoral Extern from the University of South Alabama.
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