Can you say that again?
How modern interiors could be disrupting your hearing Over 11 million people, around 1 in 6 are affected by hearing impairment across the UK. With an ageing population, hearing loss is on the rise and there are several ways modern day living is making it even more difficult for those with hearing impairments. One of the many modern day hindrances to those with hearing impairments is dining out. A survey carried out by Action On Hearing Loss found that 79% of people had left a restaurant early due to noise levels. In some cases people may even base their choice of restaurant on noise levels rather than the food it serves. Modern, minimalistic décor aimed to emulate chic high-end eateries has resulted in fewer soft furnishings in bars, pubs and restaurants. Large, bay windows and wood flooring allow sound to bounce around space more freely, resulting in an increase of background noise and making it more difficult to follow and engage in conversations. The fewer carpets and soft furnishings mean less sound is absorbed which can result in some restaurants topping over 90dB on busy nights. In addition to this, the high levels of background music played in some high street and department stores can make it difficult for individuals to communicate with sales assistants. Such music can also be debilitating and disorientating for individuals with hearing impairments. M&S have recently introduced a “Music Free Policy” after several complaints were made on PipeDown regarding the level of background music played in their stores. This policy will see 100’s of stores remain silent for shoppers, even over busy periods such as Christmas. This modernisation of restaurants and shops is not only having a negative affect on hearing but also on the well being of those with hearing impairments says Sam Rossiter, MD of Imperial Hearing “ Social isolation hearing loss can be completely debilitating”. When it comes to choosing dining and social facilities, there are several ways to improve hearing quality and communication.
- Choose a booth over a table. With higher backs, booths will block some of the background noise. The materials of booths are usually made with softer, more dense material than table chairs and can therefore dampen some of the sound.
- Sit with your back towards the wall. This will prevent sound coming from all sides of the room.
- Avoid sitting near the kitchen. Along with having to deal with the background noise of other diners, the kitchen tends to be the noisiest area of the restaurant and can exacerbate hearing difficulties.
- Choosing restaurants fitted with carpet and well lit areas. Carpets and heavy curtains can all help to minimise echoes and reverberations of background sound. Lighting can also play a crucial part as well lit areas will make it easier to lip read in comparison to dimmed lighting.