As my Grandma reached the milestone of her 90s her hearing became significantly worse. She started to notice a harder time hearing people when she was in a group. Some of the restaurants she used to really enjoy became frustrating to her because their open floorplan layout made noise carry, making it impossible for her to discern conversations amongst all the background noise.

I experimented with her a few times, and we realized that if we requested a corner space or booth, she could still hear conversation with 1-2 people, particularly if they spoke towards her right ear. Our family now knows to request quieter tables for Grandma when we go out, however, she still enjoys trying new things as do we. With all the growth and development in Seattle over the past few years, new restaurants have popped up like mushrooms throughout the rainy city. Trying to find quiet restaurants, however, can be difficult in a city that tends to cater to a much younger audience than my Grandma.

One of the Apps I’ve discovered that has made it easier for us to try new restaurants is SoundPrint. This free App is available for both Apple and Android products so I can use it on my phone and my Grandma can use it on her iPad.

SoundPrint allows users to measure the sound (decibel) level in a restaurant, or other venue, and submit this measurement to a database. Users can browse this database to find quiet, or moderately quiet places to dine out with company. Users can also write reviews, which allows them to contribute to the Apps “Quiet Lists.” SoundPrint also allows users to submit a noise complaint so other users are aware of how difficult it can be to hear in a venue.

Not only has hearing become an issue with dining out for my Grandma, but her progressive vision loss from Macular Degeneration has also made it impossible for her to read without Assistive Technology. At home, I’ve set her up with a magnifier with a light. She is also fortunate to access a desktop enlarger that is housed in her retirement facility’s library. Desktop enlargers can be significantly expensive – ranging from $2,000 – $3,500 on average in my experience.

However, the features that make a desktop enlarger so beneficial can all be accessed with a free App called Magnifying Glass & Mirror. This is another free App that I use on my iPhone to take photos of menus when I’m at restaurants with my Grandma. Once I have the photo, I can enlarge the print and even change the color contrast to make it easier for her to read. It’s available for Androids as well as iPhones. I did read some reviews that said the quality was blurry for Android products, but these were written in 2019 so I’m not sure if that’s been fixed. Feel free to add any comments in the chat if you’re an Android user. I appreciate people’s feedback!

Even my uncle, who often uses reading glasses to read menus, now uses this App in restaurants when he forgets his reading glasses and when the restaurants are too dark to read menus even with reading glasses. I’ve found both Apps to be helpful for my Grandma in allowing her to continue to go out to dinner on occasion, before and after the pandemic, of course. Getting out in the community, going to her staple restaurants and trying new ones is something that she’s enjoyed throughout her life. Luckily, thanks to these two Apps, we have tools to make dining out a possibility even if her eyes and ears don’t work quite the way they used to.

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