Are Noisy Restaurants Harmful to Our Hearing Health?

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | February 27th, 2020

Duane L. Smelser

Are you tried of yelling at your dinner date at a noisy restaurant, and wish the music would get turned down? You’re not alone, and millions of Americans are complaining about the noise, and wishing they’d stayed at home. Not only are noisy restaurants annoying, they can even be harmful to our hearing health. Noise in restaurants is having a big effect on hearing health, and servers, cooks, and bartenders often face hearing loss at increasingly young ages.


Complaining About Noise

Noise levels are a top compliant of most diners, outranking complaints about food quality or slow service. With noise levels on the rise it’s not hard to see why, and people in noisy restaurants often report feeling more anxious and stressed. Reviewers often address the sound levels of a venue as well as the decadence of the deserts or flavor of the coffee, and a complaint about the noise levels can cost a restaurant customer. Diners who are annoyed at the noise levels often leave sooner than planned, spend less money, and may not return to that venue in the future. If there are so many complaints about the noise, why are restaurants still so loud?


What Makes Restaurants So Noisy?

Along with all the chatter of a full restaurant, and the background music that often gets turned up to uncomfortable volumes, restaurants can blame current decorating trends for creating noisy dining experiences. Gone are the restaurants with plush padded seats, soft carpeting, and heavy drapes. Thirty years ago, you might go into a dimly lit restaurant, sit in a secluded booth, and dine at a table covered with a heavy table cloth.

Today’s designs feature repurposed warehouses, high ceilings, tile tables and open floor plans. Sadly, these surfaces reflect each and every sound and even amplify it. Music, conversations, and the sound of servers rushing back and forth all add to the din. Unlike rooms with drapes or carpets which absorb sound, these modern design trends full of hard surfaces make restaurants loud and full of echoes even with no costumers.


Are Noisy Restaurants Harmful to Our Hearing Health?

We know that restaurants are loud, but are they actually damaging our ears? The answer is yes. Simply download a decibel reader app on your phone, and you’ll see that many restaurants are over 90 decibels. At this volume even a few hours can cause a lot of damage, and if you’re going to a concert after dinner, you’ll expose your ears to far too much noise. Restaurant staff is often the most affected, and after an 8-hour shift, many will experience hearing loss.


How to Lower Noise Levels in a Restaurant

To make restaurants safe for our ears and more enjoyable for our dinner date, lowering the noise level is key. Having the restaurant too loud is harmful for everyone’s hearing, but lowering the sound too much will make everyone feel self-conscious speaking during dinner. Restaurants need to find ways to manage sound absorption by placing wall hangings over concrete walls, covering floors, and using softer surfaces to absorb more of the sound. This will create a pleasant atmosphere where customers will enjoy eating, but won’t risk their hearing health.


Ways You can Protect Your Hearing

Don’t wait for restaurants to fix their noise problem, but protect your hearing today! If a restaurant is too loud, complain. The more complaints a restaurant receives, the more likely they are to do something about the problem, and save everyone’s hearing. Be sure to ask your server to turn the music down. They’ll probably be happy to oblige, and everyone else in the restaurant will thank you. Another approach would be to eat early. It might be hard to arrive at a restaurant before 6pm, but if you eat before the dinner rush, you’ll enjoy a much quieter meal, and faster service. If you do arrive at the restaurant when it’s already noisy, ask for a quiet table. Don’t sit underneath a speaker, near the front door, or by the kitchen. Try to get a table in a quiet corner where less sound reaches you. Finally, if the restaurant is just too loud, leave early, and don’t go back. Find restaurants that are quieter than 80 decibels, and protect your hearing health.

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