Dinner parties (or restaurants and pubs, etc)

Section B – Dinner parties (or restaurants)

Many of the same points are relevant to crowded rooms (Section A) so also read that section as many of the strategies have not been repeated here.   

In this section:

B.a. Environment (Dinner parties, restaurants and pubs, etc)
B.b. Choice of people to talk to (Dinner parties, restaurants and pubs, etc)
B.c. Hearing aids and hearing strategies (Dinner party, restaurants and pubs, etc)
B.d. Lipreading (Dinner parties, restaurants and pubs, etc)
B.e. Explanations and getting help (Dinner parties, restaurants and pubs, etc)
B.f. General (Dinner parties, restaurants and pubs, etc)

People have found the following useful:

B.a. Environment (Dinner parties, restaurants and pubs)

1. Some people find a round table is better than a long one because then they can see all round; others find long and square tables better because they only want to follow the conversation of a few and they follow better than trying across a round table.

2. Many people find it is usually best to choose a table away from the service areas and any noisy groups, or music loudspeakers or bands if they want to talk.

3. Some people say they choose their position at the table carefully so that the light shines on the other people’s faces and they are in the right position in relation to the noise. The end of the table is often the best place for lipreading.

4. Pubs and restaurants often have alcoves and sometimes those are quieter.

5. Some people try and sit where they will see the waiter approach.

6. One person said, “I try to sit at the end of the table. I sit with my good ear facing my neighbour, and sit opposite those with whom I can lipread and converse. I can forget about my deaf side if there is nobody sitting at the head of the table.”

7. Some people try to avoid pubs with background music.  Unfortunately it’s not always possible, or the music starts after you’ve sat down. 

One person said, “I ask for it to be turned down. If they will not, then I ask my companions if they will agree to go elsewhere. If that is not possible, I make a mental note not to go there again. I have a mental blacklist of places I will not go to again.”

8. One person said, “I sit with my good ear to a neighbour who is the sort of person who will fill me in – but I do not expect them to be very good at it. They often forget and join in everybody else’s conversation. I try not to feel upset and enjoy the times I am included.”

9. Some people said that if they are booking a table, they ask for one in a place with good lighting.

10. I find that by arriving as early as possible after the restaurant opens can mean that there is a quieter time before the room starts to fill up with people.

11. I try to get the seat that’s best for me. I prefer to be the first to sit down so that I can find the best place for me to hear and lipread.

12. One person said they find it helpful when entering a pub or restaurant with other people to be the last to sit down.  If you decide to try this tactic you can then pick the best seat for yourself from the point of view of hearing and lipreading. If that position is already taken, you can get people to shift before they have really settled down. Being last on your feet does however, mean that you will probably have to buy the first and most expensive round of drinks. But what disability is without its costs? (This manoeuvre may be far easier for the male than the female. But only a male chauvinist pig would deny a woman the right to be last on her feet.

13. I ask my friends if I can do the booking so that I can choose a suitable table and then when I arrive I ask my fellow diners to let me choose where to sit so that I can hear the other diners at the table and the waitress.

(See also Section A.a “Making the most of the environment”.)


B.b. Choice of people to talk to (Dinner parties, restaurants and pubs etc)

1. I find that there is usually one person who is better to hear/lipread than the others and I concentrate on what they are saying rather than the people who mumble.

2. If possible I try to sit next to the people who are the most lipreadable and/or who are most likely to be helpful if I find I cannot follow.

(See also Crowded rooms A.c.)


B.c. Hearing aids and hearing strategies (Dinner parties, restaurants and pubs,etc)

1. I turn my aid down a little and concentrate on lipreading.

2. Some people find that it’s sometimes useful to sit with their back to the the wall providing there is a soft covering on the wall, e.g. Sound Sorba or other soft furnishing.

3. I find that people try harder when I tell them I’ve had to take my hearing aid off or if I tell them my hearing aid is broken.

(See also Crowded rooms A.d.)


B.d. Lipreading (Dinner parties, restaurants and pubs,etc)

1. Sit near the person you can lipread. If you can lipread two, sit so that you can see both of them so that you can follow the flow of conversation.

2. One person said that they always order scampi and chips when eating out as it’s easier to just stab a scampi or a chip without looking at what they are doing, that way they can watch the speaker and enjoy their meal at the same time.

3. One person said that when they are dining with close friends they cut up all the food when their plate arrives so that they can concentrate on lipreading the conversation instead of cutting up their food.

4. Some people have found it helpful to explain when dining with others that they like to be quiet whilst they are eating as they cannot lipread and watch what they are eating at the same time.

Some said that they make a joke of it –  along the lines of it’s too messy to lipread and eat at the same time in polite company; or they’ll still have a full plate at the end of the night if they spend all the time lipreading and talking.

(See also Crowded rooms A.e.)


B.e. Explanations and getting help (Dinner parties, restaurants and pubs, etc.)

1. I explain that I am hearing impaired and I explain how they help.

2. I ask a neighbour to attract my attention before speaking and explain that it is not easy to eat and listen/lipread at the same time unless my attention is gained.

3. I do explain that I have to concentrate intensely and look at people and that it is very tiring and I may need to take a rest.

4. I explain that I take sometimes need to take a break from conversation.

5. I tell people on both sides to get my attention otherwise I don’t hear them. I ask them to turn to me and speak to me clearly. People at the side of me may be better to hear but I find that they are more difficult to see and lipread.

(See also Crowded rooms A.f.)


B.f. General (Dinner parties, restaurants and pubs, etc.)

1. I avoid eating noisy food e.g. celery and crisps, etc, as I do not want to deafen myself while eating or block out the speech of others. I avoid food in noisy bags.

2. Some people said that they take their reading glasses so that they can read the menu themselves.

3. It helps me if I remember that hearing people also have difficulties at dinner parties, pubs and clubs.  Many hearing people have huge difficulties in background noise.

4. It is frequently the custom for hosts to sit people next to others they have not met previously. Asking the questions gives me some control of the conversation and helps me to anticipate the answers e.g. “What work do you do?”, or asking them about their family or pets or their retirement, etc.

5. I try not to lose my sense of humour or frown with concentration.

6. I suggest “Let’s eat and then talk”. Some people are happy to do this but others are not.

7. I tell a joke against myself, not too terrible, and it helps to break the ice and lessen the embarrassment.

8. I offer to help the hostess serve.

 (See also Crowded rooms A.n.)