Restaurants are loud and action packed places. Going to a restaurant is a great way to enjoy a date night or meet up with friends and family. However, the experience can also be daunting. The size of your party, restaurant size and layout, and where you are seated, all greatly affect your experience and ability to hear conversation. To understand multiple people conversing, mixed with the noises from other tables, servers and the kitchen, can be exhausting. Listening in a restaurant is especially hard for those with a hearing loss. You might often find yourself asking others to repeat themselves or not actively engaging in conversation. Fortunately, hearing aids today have settings specifically made to reduce background noise and improve speech understanding in noisy environments. But even so, the challenge remains. Now what exactly makes being in a restaurant so hard to understand voices?
The foundation for poor speech comprehension in a noisy setting like a restaurant is the target voice to noise ratio. The louder the voice is compared to the background noise, the easier it is to understand. On the other hand, if the background noise increases the harder it will be to understand the voices speaking to you. In a loud environment, high and low pitch noises combine to create a loud rumbling that resembles white noise, causing a masking effect on your ability to hear voices. In other words, the louder the background noise is, the louder everyone around you has to talk. This creates even more background noise.
Another factor that contributes to difficulty hearing in a loud restaurant is the reverberation. Reverberation is when sound bounces off surfaces and creates an echo. Usually reverberation is worse in large rooms like a church hall or a gymnasium. Consider large rooms with reflective surfaces such as tile floors, ceramic countertops and large windows. The echoes created by large rooms and reflective surfaces allows the noise to travel a lot longer before dissipating. Many restaurants feature large windows and an open concept layout allowing noise to travel. This effect is similar to when the piano is played with the damper pedal. The damper pedal allows the strings to continue vibrating after the key is released, creating a continuous echo of the notes previously played.
The number of people at your table will significantly increase your difficulty to understand conversation. Conversations happening on your right and on your left can be overwhelming. Often you will find yourself choosing one side of the table to speak to, isolating yourself from the conversation happening on the other side. Since we can only focus on so many voices at once, the greater the number of people at a table, the harder it becomes to understand.
Many options are available to help combat the listening difficulties inside a restaurant. Requesting a booth provides an isolated pocket to sit in, away from the noise that travels in the middle of the restaurant. Booths are also square or round in shape, allowing you to see everyone at the table. Remember to take in the reflective surfaces at the restaurant, tile floors, ceramic tables and big windows contribute to reverberation. If the music is too loud, simply request that they turn it down. Finally, program settings and remote microphone systems such as Roger are available for hearing aids, allowing you to tune out background noise and amplify the voices of those around you.
Visit one of our many Davidson Hearing Aids Centres in the Ottawa region and we’ll help you combine strategies to enjoy your restaurant experiences to the fullest!