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For people with hearing loss, speech recognition poses a challenge. Dining in a restaurant means you are competing with background noise to hear. If you experience a hearing loss, you may find that dining in noisy restaurants makes conversation difficult. The noise levels in restaurants certainly don’t help!
Have you wondered recently if restaurants are louder than ever? If so, you’ve noticed something that food critics and business journals have commented on in recent years. Across the country, as new restaurants open and standard favorites are renovated, the trend toward more modern design has changed the acoustics of restaurants – which may alienate those who are hard of hearing.
Here, we take a look at this new phenomenon of loud restaurants and give you some tips for an enjoyable dining experience.
Sleek Interior Design Results in Louder Acoustics
Gone are the tablecloths and carpeted floors of fine-dining. These days, restaurants tend to occupy former warehouses or loft spaces, with a modern industrial-chic aesthetic. Restaurant designs now boast exposed brick, wood, iron, and concrete. According to The Wall Street Journal, these interiors add to the rise in volume in restaurants. Architect Dirk Denison, who has designed the interior of many high-end restaurants, says that restaurants resemble “a big square box – the worst-case scenario. Parallel walls cause noise to ping back and forth.”
In the past, carpeting and linens helped to muffle the sounds of the restaurant. Now, with mostly hard surfaces, the acoustics of restaurants are not absorbed. Luckily, there are acoustics experts who install decorations to buffer these loud sounds.
Open Kitchens Create More Clatter
With the popularity of chefs in the media, the people preparing your food have become celebrities and the art of cooking is a performance. Many newer restaurants feature the open kitchen design, some which even offer diners a front row seat to watch chefs prepare the meal.
Open kitchen designs add to the noise level in a restaurant, with the clatter of pots and pans and the chatter of chefs and cooks. If you experience a hearing loss, request a seat away from the open kitchen.
A Lively Restaurant is a Loud Restaurant
Music and ambiance is a huge part of popular restaurants. People no longer want to eat in quiet, with whispers. Nowadays, loud music and chatter add to the vibe of the place. Bon Appetit Magazine writes that loud restaurants “are perceived as lively and vibrant. Very few people want to eat in a silent room.”
From New York Magazine’s Grubstreet: “Most restaurant scholars will tell you that the Great Noise Boom began in the late nineties, when Mario Batali had the genius idea of taking the kind of music he and his kitchen-slave compatriots listened to while rolling their pastas and stirring their offal-rich ragus and blasting it over the heads of the startled patrons in the staid dining room at Babbo…Sound systems were cranked up and suddenly noise became the hallmark of a successful New York restaurant.”
Unfortunately, this leads to the Lombard effect: as the music gets louder, we raise our voices in an attempt to hear each other over the tunes and other diners. If possible, ask for a seat away from the speakers and near the perimeter of the room. If the restaurant offers a booth, request to sit in one, as this configuration is the best seating for seeing and hearing your dining companions!
How Hearing Aids Help Your Dining Experience
For people who are hard of hearing, don’t lose your appetite quite yet! With the use of hearing aids, you’ll still be able to enjoy dinner in these loud restaurants with your friends and loved ones.
Advanced hearing aids are equipped with fast and smart features such as noise reduction,; multiple microphones that scan the environment and focuses on the sounds you want to hear; and processing platforms that adjust automatically to provide a natural listening experience in any environment. Some hearing aid models offer features to soften sharp sounds, which helps when there are forks scraping against plates and clatter rising from the kitchen. Overall, hearing aids can provide you with a comfortable listening experience that allows you to focus on great conversation and great food.
If you are experiencing a hearing loss, contact us at Kenwood Hearing Centers. For a comprehensive hearing test and hearing aid fitting.