Are restaurants louder than you remember? According to an article by Kare 11 News from Minneapolis-St. Paul, found here, you are right! David Shea of Shea Design who designed some of the local restaurants discussed in the article states “research shows people want to eat in a place that feels energized but most restaurants are now designed with all kinds of customers in mind”, which is taken into account while planning out a new space.
David Fabry, Ph.D. from Starkey Hearing Technologies says “If you’re going to a restaurant where they have a live band or live entertainment, or they’re trying to create that atmosphere that is lively, 100 decibels for an hour’s duration of dinner places you at risk for permanent loss”. Some measurements taken at the local David Shea designed restaurants gave “readings around 80dB “ which, to give some perspective, is about the volume of a garbage disposal or a power lawn mower (according to CDC).
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) says that when people are exposed to sounds over 85 dB over an eight-hour period, damage is possible. However, that may not mean much to the average restaurant goer, that may be significant for restaurant workers.
Not only that, but as our ears age, we actually need people to speak louder than the background noise to have a conversation. So, unfortuantely, this puts the 38 million people in the United States who have some degree of hearing loss (treated and untreated), at risk to have a less than satisfactory experience. (CDC) Some tips suggested by Starkey listed in the article as ways to improve your experience:
Try to sit at the farthest point from where the main noise source is and put the person you’re trying to hear in front of you with the noise source behind you. Your ears, because of their shape, act as their own “hearing aid,” if you will, blocking the sound from behind and amplifying the sounds in front. They also suggest sitting near softer surfaces like curtains and upholstered seats. It will help dampen all that background noise.
If you are curious about the loudness of your restaurants, and more, the article mentions Starkey’s free app called SoundCheck.