Gail Richard said it all, for me anyway, in a Chicago Tribune op-ed titled, "Dining out may be bad for your ears."
I’m deaf in one ear. When I dine out, I prefer to be seated with that ear against the window or wall and my good ear aimed toward my companions. But at especially loud restaurants, I can’t hear anyone who isn’t right next to me, no matter where I sit.
I’m certainly not alone. Loud restaurants have become a widespread bane of customers.
I'm also deaf in one ear and have loss in another. Meaning I'm have about 25 percent of normal hearing. And going to a restaurant is not just discomforting but at times agonizing.
Richard is absolutely right that restaurants have become uncomfortably loud even for people who aren't hard of hearing. We were at a high-end steakhouse over the weekend, and you would have thought that for the price that the atmosphere would have been a little less noisy. At least at a level that you could hear the person sitting next to you.
Instead, the tables were pushed close together, so close that with my hearing aids I could almost hear the conversations of nearby diners than I could of the people at my table. As Richard notes, it doesn't help for the hearing impaired when, as it was in this restaurant, diners are seated in large, undivided rooms and there are no sound buffers, such as draperies. As Richards noted:
Many restaurateurs believe they’re giving restaurantgoers what they want by building high volume into the design of their spaces. Sleek surfaces made of wood, marble and other materials that don’t absorb sound are staples of a typical 21st century dining experience. An open floor plan that amplifies patron noise is part of the “vibe.”
She suggests some common sense remedies such as “quiet zones” for diners with hearing loss and others who prefer less noise. (I hesitate to bring this up because a progressive out there will probably get the idea of a law requiring quiet zones or such "safe places" for the hearing challenged. No way.)
But she and I agree: Restaurants ought to do something if they want to keep their customers, many of whom are sick and tired of all that racket that drowns out what are friends are saying.
By the way, I noticed that there is some objections to the use of "hearing impaired," as if that suggests those of us with hearing loss are somehow less than human. (See, "Deaf? Hard of Hearing? Hearing Impaired? Be Careful What You Call Us")
This, of course, is the usual political correctness bunk that is seeping into every corner of our culture. I prefer "hearing impaired" to "hard of hearing" when we don't refer to the visually impaired (most of us oldies) as "hard of seeing." Or "hard of thinking," "hard of walking" or "hard of remembering."