Tips for Better Hearing in Noise

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A Hearing Aids

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A

Hearing in noise is challenging, even for people with great hearing. You may find yourself yelling over the noise of the crowd, or trying to make your friend understand you despite the loud background music. If you have hearing loss, hearing in noise is even more challenging, and you may have a hard time understanding what’s being said. Hearing aids can help you hear clearly in noisy situations, and here are a few more tips for better hearing in noise. 

Wear Two Hearing Aids

One of the best ways to hear in background noise is to wear both your hearing aids. With two hearing aids, more of the sounds in your environment will be reaching your ears and your brain. You’ll be processing sounds from all directions and have an easier time localizing sounds. When you can determine where a sound is coming from, your brain can easily tell which sounds are important speech sounds, and which sounds are distracting background noise. 

Plan Ahead

If you have trouble hearing in background noise, plan ahead. The easiest way to hear in background noise is to avoid the noise altogether! Find a quieter restaurant or bar to meet your friends, and enjoy conversations without all the background noise. Look for restaurants that have carpets and padded seats, since this will help absorb the sound, and make the space quieter. Restaurants with plants will also absorb more of the sound, and make it easier for you to follow conversations.

Look at the Menu Ahead of Time

After you’ve chosen a restaurant or bar, take a look at their website to see if they have any specials or other menu options. When the waiter or bartender comes to take your order, you’ll have no trouble understanding them, and choosing what you want to order. 

Choose Your Table Carefully

When planning to meet friends at a restaurant, call ahead and reserve a table. Ask for a table along a wall or in a corner where the distracting sounds won’t be coming from every direction. Also avoid sitting near the door or near the kitchen where you’ll be distracted by the sounds of people coming and going.

It’s also important that you get a table in a well-lit area. It’s easier to understand people, and hear in background noise, if you can see your friends’ faces clearly. This will give you non-verbal cues about what they’re saying, and help you easily follow the conversation. If you’re dining during the day, sit with your back to the window, so the light will fall on your friends faces, and the background noise will be further away from you.

Avoid Busy Times

To hear better in background noise, avoid going out on the busiest nights. For example, don’t go for dinner at 6pm on Friday when everyone else is meeting their friends for an end-of-the week dinner. Instead, arrange to meet your friends on a different night, and meet a bit before or after the main dinner rush.

Ask for Accommodations

Restaurant staff will gladly make accommodations to help you hear. If the restaurant isn’t too busy, you can ask them to turn down the music to make it easier to hear. Your friends and other diners will also appreciate being able to hear more clearly.

You can tell your waiter that you have hearing loss, and ask them to speak a little slower to help you hear. You can request that they face you when speaking, or repeat what they’ve said.  You can also make it easier for you and your waiter by ordering your food and indicating all your decisions, such as ordering the kind of dressing you want as you order your salad, or immediately ordering fries to accompany your burger.

Tips for Better Hearing in Noise

Don’t forget that everyone has difficulty hearing in noise. In complex listening environments it can be hard to determine which speech sounds are coming from your table, and which sounds are coming from the next table over. Even people with normal hearing have a harder time hearing in places that are very noisy. Follow these tips for better hearing in noise, and ask for the accommodations you need to hear clearly.