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Restaurants: Too Much Noise

During the pandemic, we decided to forgo indoor restaurants in the interests of avoiding unnecessary exposure to COVID. This summer, we finally relented when heat or rain prevented eating outside. And here’s what we discovered — we actually preferred dining with friends and family in our homes. Carrying in food, while not as excellent as eating it in a restaurant, is fine. The opportunity for relaxed conversation, leisurely dining, and enjoying actually being able to hear and converse trumps the restaurant dining experience.

While we enjoyed at home social gatherings during the pandemic, we felt like we were missing out by forgoing restaurants. But as someone whose hearing is not great, I had forgotten how difficult it is to listen and converse in a restaurant. Maybe this is how restaurants are these days, but “background” music is everywhere. Sometimes, if the restaurant is not too crowded, they will agree to turn it down. Usually not. Because of my hearing issues, we try to go early, but by 6:30 the crowds start arriving and my ability to converse departs.

A recent experience illustrates why I am not feeling the love for restaurant dining. We were invited to an intimate celebratory gathering at a very nice restaurant. They seated our party in a small room with a low ceiling, and the sound of conversation bounced off the walls. I tried using my iPhone to adjust my hearing aids. “Noisy environment” didn’t work, nor did increasing the volume. I tried narrowing the direction of my hearing so I could at least hear the person seated next to me. It helped a bit, but once the music started, I was lost. I suppose this is how deaf people must feel. I knew people were saying things but could not make sense of their conversation. While he food was excellent, the experience was so stressful that I couldn’t wait to leave.

Many of my friends, being people of a certain age, have hearing difficulties and most of them wear hearing aids. When we met at each other’s homes, this deficit wasn’t really a problem. Now, if we go out to eat, the first thing we ask is how noisy the restaurant is. There are very few that pass the “can you hear me” test. I don’t really understand why restaurants choose to be so noisy by adding a sound track to places that already have poor acoustics.

Maybe someone in the restaurant business can enlighten me. Until that happens, many of us with hearing issues will return to COVID dining protocols. Sharing a meal with others is hardly a social experience if we can’t hear one another.


by Laurie Levy
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