In my last post “A side of decibels” I shared some ideas on what restaurants could do to make dinning out a more pleasant experience for those sensitive to noise. I wanted to expand on this and address the other side, what we can do as patrons who are sensitive to noise to still enjoy going out to a happening restaurant.
1. Go out after everyone is well rested. Having a pool of energy to draw from will help one’s nervous system be able to better process high sensory input.
2. Go out BEFORE meal time. Don’t wait until you’re hungry, and your system is short circuiting.
3. Go out on a week night, when it’s less crowded and busy. Go out early or late, so you’re not there at the same time as everyone else.
4. Ask to be seated (or seat yourself) in the quietest spot possible. Away from speakers, the kitchen, the entry way or the bathroom.
5. Ask your server if it would be possible for them to turn down the music as you have a guest who has hyper sensitive hearing. I’ve found at most restaurants where I’ve made this request, they are very accommodating and other guests are often grateful.
6. Bring sound canceling headphones, noise reduction ear protectors, or ear plugs.
7. Bring sensory soothing toys or fidgets. Hand held fidgets, stress balls, or one of my daughter’s personal favorites: order a glass full of ice to suck and crunch on.
8. For smaller children, bring a safe place to escape to such as a pet bed or picnic blanket they can hide in under the table. Go for frequent walks outside. Visit your car to get a new toy or book. Invent reasons to find quiet places or moments for calming and deactivating the nervous system.
9. Prepare those you may be meeting at the restaurant. Let the people you’re meeting know you have someone with you who is very sensitive to noise, so they can understand if they need to take a brief walk, or wear ear protection.
10. Celebrate a successful meal with no meltdowns! (Stickers, Dessert, a special trip, a new toy, etc)