Loud restaurants can be annoying for anyone, but they can be a serious problem for those who have hearing loss. When we are expected to communicate with others in a noisy room, we can become embarrassed, frustrated, angry, or depressed. That process of working against the background noise in a loud restaurant is not only emotionally taxing, but it can even have a negative effect on cognition. When you are unable to understand what others have to say, the brain scrambles to put together random units of sound into something resembling language. That mess of sound is confusing for the brain, to say the least. Brain imaging has even discovered that those who have hearing loss tend to recruit parts of the brain that are usually used for complex thought for the relatively simpler act of auditory processing. This recruitment process can actually change the curvature and proportion of gray matter, potentially contributing to the higher rates of dementia that are witnessed among those with untreated hearing loss. With these serious issues in mind, a loud restaurant is not an issue to be taken lightly. One app developer took this serious concern for quiet public space into a new platform called SoundPrint.
Gregory Scott Farber was interested in quiet public spaces for a variety of reasons. The desire to carry on a conversation on a date was just one among the many drives to find a quiet place in public. As a resident of Manhattan, the city didn’t offer enough options for quiet public space, and Farber sometimes Googled for quiet restaurants, only to be disappointed at the loud sound he discovered there. With these problems in mind, he created SoundPrint. This app tracks the decibel level of public places like restaurants, bars, and cafes. Those who want a quiet place to work away from home enjoy this app, as do those who want to have a conversation rather than struggling to shout and hear others. The app can be particularly useful for those with hearing loss who need to find places with minimal background noise to enable their conversations over a meal.
If you have untreated hearing loss, you might find it frustrating to meet with others in public. Finding a quiet place to talk by using an app like SoundPrint is one approach to the problem, indeed. But what if your family or friends want to go to a loud restaurant? If you find yourself in this tricky situation, there are a few steps you can take to make your experience better. First, you can make sure that you are positioned in the middle of the table, if possible. When you are seated in the center of the group, you will have the best chance of hearing others. Keeping an unobstructed line of sight to others is quite helpful, as well. Whether we realize it or not, many of us read mouth movements to add visual information to the auditory information we gather. Keeping a clear line of sight to all the speakers at a loud restaurant can help with this complex interpretation process. You might want to ask your host to seat you in the quietest part of the restaurant or bar, perhaps behind a retaining wall. Finally, you can make sure to take a look at the menu prior to your visit, minimizing any awkward exchanges with the server. If the server asks you questions about options and preferences, that conversation can be particularly difficult to manage, and knowing exactly what you want to order is quite helpful.
Despite these strategies, a difficult experience in a loud restaurant is seemingly inevitable for those who have untreated hearing loss. The best thing you can do to improve your quality of life and enjoyment of the event is to get treatment for your hearing needs. When you have hearing aids in place, you can rejoin conversations with better hearing ability and more confidence in your ability to accurately hear what others are saying. If you are ready to seek hearing aids, why not contact our office to make an appointment for a hearing test? We can guide you in the process of getting the right treatment for your individual needs.