Noise sensitivity can be one of the main problems after a brain injury, I’ve dealt with it for six years now and would like to share with you some tips I’ve learned along the way while dining out.
How to build up confidence in a noisy restaurant, cafe or pub
- First time go with someone you trust, love or know really well
- Don’t go with a group of people for your first few meals out
- Try to focus on the person’s face that you’re sitting with to distract you from the noise and people around you
- If you’re struggling don’t hide it, let the person know because this will make you feel more comfortable and hopefully they’ll understand. If the worst comes to the worst they’ll already understand if you need to leave early because you’re struggling
- Don’t be afraid to go to the toilet for a few moments of peace and quiet, because even though you have the perfect, quiet corner seat noise can still overwhelm you
Dining out with a group of people
Always sit at the end of the table, I cannot stress this enough. Sitting in the middle of a group of people is overwhelming, you struggle to follow a conversation, talk to others and even talking to one person is a struggle.
How to find the perfect seat
There are three situations when it comes to finding the perfect seat: Booking online, walking in for the first time with or without a reservation and over the phone.
Keep it simple, get your needs across and be polite: ‘Quiet, corner table needed please as I have a brain injury and struggle with noise.’
Walking in for the first time with or without a reservation
As the waiter/waitress walks you to your table double check that your table is ok, don’t be afraid to say if it isn’t.
Over the phone
I recommend this as your last option as restaurants over the phone have a lot of background noise and can often be hard to understand but if you need to just say the same thing as booking online. Keep the phone call short and sweet, you should be ok.
Letting the waiter/waitress know you have a brain injury and struggle with noise
This tip may scare you, there was a point when it would have scared me too… It’s taken me years to build up the confidence to do this. You may be different, you may build up the confidence to say this quicker than others. Everyone heals differently after a brain injury and I see this as part of healing; standing up for yourself and educating others in the process so you can enjoy yourself.
The first time I did this I felt a bit guilty as the waitress seemed to be too nice and apologised that the table wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t a quiet, corner seat but it was a quiet time of the evening so I was ok. I think some people hear ‘brain injury’ and just panic, but that’s not on us. If I don’t say why I need a quiet corner table people won’t try so hard to reserve one, this was happening which is why I started to mention my brain injury while booking. When you have a brain injury looking after yourself first is the most important thing.
If you find yourself struggling with even these tips, try dining at quiet times while sticking to these tips and most of all don’t worry. Like I said before everyone heals differently and each brain injury is different, don’t rush your recovery.