June 28th, 2010 at 1:11 am
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Hearing Loss and Dining Experiences

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

Something that always amazes me is the ability of a waiter or waitress to rattle off the list of specials for that day. What happens when a person has a mild hearing loss and there is a lot of background noise? A friend and I were at a new restaurant and the waiter went on and on about the dishes, the special sauces and accompaniments and he did not read a word of it. If the details are presented at a rapid rate,  the person with a more severe hearing loss may struggle. Unless something really stands out, keeping track of what was said can be a challenge for many of us, especially if you add a hearing loss or some short term memory problems. When a printed list of the specials is offered, it usually is easier for a person to make a selection.

What my friend did when this happened at his dad’s favorite restaurant was to tell his dad some possible selections from the specials offered. He did not give him all the details just the basics. From there, once they narrowed it down to a few possibilities, the son provided more information on how the meal was prepared and the side dishes. His hard of hearing dad enjoyed trying new foods so this was a strategy they worked out. His dad was not limited to just picking from the standard printed menu and found it uncomfortable to ask people to repeat when he was in public because he often did not hear all of what was said even the second time. He had even talked about maybe no longer going out for dinner any more. His son’s sensitivity to his situation created a positive dining out experience for both of them.

During one of my periodic visits to my mom’s assisted living for a week or so, I observed her problem solving skills at work. She could become frustrated with her hearing loss, memory challenges and word finding difficulties, especially at mealtime. She took the weekly menu they printed, brought it to the dining room and just read what her choices were. It was great to see how helpful that was for her. One of my patients also had a visual problem, so we just requested a large print menu and now he could read and ponder his meal choices before he got to the dining room at his retirement community.

Some people may not be as comfortable or familiar with ways to assist someone who is frustrated. Just stepping back, observing then making some helpful suggestions may be the best option. Independence and dignity are important so solutions that are supportive in that way can make a difference. Article with additional information: Managing a Life with Hearing Loss.

 One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever
we are doing and devote our attention to eating.

Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright

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