Most people take dining out for granted, but if you have hearing loss in Charleston, you are well aware of the difficulties involved in eating out at a restaurant.
Others might contend with slow service or a chef who is a little heavy-handed with the salt, but for those with a hearing impairment, noise is the chief complaint.
It can make an otherwise enjoyable experience downright unpleasant.
It may even be considered a type of discrimination
How Noisy Backgrounds Affect the Hearing-Impaired
Hearing loss affects about one in five people in Charleston. That translates to 48 million people across the U.S.
Approximately 90 percent benefit from hearing aids, which amplify sounds so they can hear better and communicate more effectively.
But in situations where background noise is prevalent, they are unable of separating noise sources, making it all but impossible for hearing-impaired individuals to concentrate.
Restaurants are notorious for their noise levels.
People are technically protected under the Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which states that all places of public accommodation, including restaurants, must accommodate people with disabilities.
But it’s unclear whether hearing loss is considered a disability; opinions vary depending on whom you ask.
Thus, most diners with hearing loss have few options other than asking for a quieter table or requesting that the music be turned down.
Management isn’t always willing or able to grant these requests, however.
Explains Ashok Bajaj, owner of a Washington, D.C. restaurant called Rasika, “When you go to a restaurant, you are dining with others; you are not just dining by yourself.
Diners have to be mindful that, if you go into a restaurant with 100 seats, it is going to be noisy no matter what you do.
Sometimes you get a loud table, and there is nothing you can control about it.
We accommodate our guests the best we can. It is difficult for the restaurant to please everybody.”
Restaurants are noisy even for diners with normal hearing.
Noise levels average 75-85 decibels and in some cases, exceed 95 decibels – a noise level on par with that of a lawnmower.
At that level, hearing loss can occur in about an hour, so you’d better wolf down that linguini or get it to go!
Poor acoustics, loud music, open kitchens and crowded tables all contribute to these noise levels.
Not only is it hard for people to enjoy a peaceful meal in noisy restaurants, but they also contribute to the ongoing problem of hearing loss and can negatively affect those with related hearing disorders such as tinnitus and hyperacusis.
Options for Diners
When it comes to the law, the disability-rights aspect of noise is evolving.
You can’t simply call the police because your favorite restaurant won’t turn down the music, so you’re pretty much left with filing a noise complaint or going one step further and bringing a civil lawsuit against the establishment, but few people are going to go to that much trouble.
The Department of Justice freely admits that most of their enforcement efforts concern wheelchair-accessibility issues.
Individuals with hearing loss in Charleston have a few options that can improve their dining experience.
Online review sites such as Yelp can also prove helpful.
Try dining during off-peak hours and, when making reservations, ask for a quiet table in the corner. If all else fails, get your food to go.
For more information on overcoming hearing loss in noisy situations, reach out to your Charleston audiologist.
Related Hearing Loss Posts:
- The History of Hearing Aids
- Risk Factors for Hearing Loss That Might Surprise You
- Hearing Aids + Heat: A Not-so-Winning Combination
Our Charleston Area Audiologists Office Locations
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Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
North Mount Pleasant
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Mt Pleasant, SC 29466
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Charleston, SC 29412