For many people who are hard of hearing, it’s a common and challenging situation. Alison Butler of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association — Newfoundland and Labrador (CHHA-NL) said clients bring it up all the time: the loud music, the clanging and banging, and the people yelling over it all.
She said in situations like those, hearing aids can only do so much. You may be able to hear the person you’re talking to, but the cacophony of an open-concept restaurant can make it hard to understand what they’re saying.
“As soon as you add in all that extra sound, it makes it so much more difficult to pick out the things that you want to hear, and that’s the same for all of us. It’s the same for me. You know, I can’t hear what’s going on in a noisy restaurant either,” said Butler, who doesn’t have hearing loss.
Leon Mills, CHHA-NL’s executive director, said he had that problem recently when he took some relatives out for supper. He uses hearing aids, and thought it might be just him. But his relatives also found it very loud at the downtown St. John’s restaurant.
“I asked the waitress, when she came over, ‘is it possible that you could turn down the music?’ She said, ‘yeah, sure no problem.’ So she turned it down, and right away it was great. It was a totally different for me. It was much less stressful. But I’ve gone lots of places where they won’t turn it down,” Mills said.
After hearing from so many clients about restaurants, the CHHA-NL decided to compile a list of the quietest ones in the province to shine a light on places where it’s easy to have a chat over dinner. The organization is inviting people fill out the one-question online survey, which will be closed Friday.
Butler said the response has been great so far, but: “Someone told me, ‘I don’t really want to do the survey because if I tell people the restaurant that I like going to, then everyone’s going to start going there and it’ll get noisy,” she laughed.
One goal of the project is to help clients with hearing loss, but Butler said it’s also a way to create awareness about how recreational noise can cause permanent damage. Being in a loud restaurant or bar for an hour or two might not cause lasting damage to a patron, but Butler said employees of those establishments really need to consider protecting their ears.
“One of the things that I see all the time, with people of all ages, is that they think that if they wear hearing protection then they can’t hear what’s going on. But that’s really not the case. It brings the volume level to a safer point. In a lot of cases, you can actually hear better, because you’re helping to block out some of that background noise,” she said.
Butler personally takes precautions to avoid hearing loss. She often wears custom earplugs that are molded to her ears — including when she visits a loud restaurant.