Tired of Loud Restaurants? Time for a Hearing Test!

Tired of Loud Restaurants? Time for a Hearing Test!

Bonnie L. Baehr, Au.D.

Volume levels in restaurants have been rising nationwide for some time now. The New York Times reports that noise levels in New York City restaurants can reach up to 99 decibels, which is louder than the volume produced by a lawnmower. Compare those levels with normal conversation, typically measured at 60 to 65 decibels. 

What is behind this rise in restaurant noise? There are a few factors:

Louder restaurants make you eat more.

There’s a known correlation between loud and fast music and increased appetite. Restaurant science has gone so far as to prove this correlation with such decisiveness that corporate chain restaurants have developed soundtracks that switch to higher tempo music and increase the volume to encourage a higher table turnover rate. Perhaps diners are simply not paying as much attention to internal cues of fullness or are distracted from being attuned to their budgets. 

Don’t sacrifice your calorie count or your wallet along with your ears. Be more economical all around and skip the new hotspot in town in favor of a comfortable, low-key place that isn’t manipulating you into spending more money than you should or overindulging despite your best intentions. 

Louder restaurants seem more fun.

Restaurateurs want to do the highest volume of customers possible. In an industry with a slim profit margin, doing the most business in an evening is how many dining spots pay the bills. 

One way to attract a crowd is by cranking up the volume. Loud, busy spaces appear more energetic, which is what many diners seek when looking for a fun place to eat. Loud can feel engaged and social. It’s that visibility and appearance of being somewhere more youthful and fun that many people seek for a night out on the town. 

Of course, people with hearing loss don’t usually equate loud with fun. Most would say quite the opposite. Loud often means a night of miscommunication, stress, and effortful listening. 

If you find yourself in an exceedingly “fun” restaurant, you can use a few tricks to ensure you’re still enjoying yourself:

  • Ask for a seat against a wall. Simply eliminating background noise can do a lot to aid you in hearing your dining companion more clearly. 
  • When dining in a group, choose a circular table when possible. This is the result of being able to see all of your companions as they’re speaking. You can identify voices and be in the sight line of their speech, as well as use body language to pick up on the visual cues of conversation.

Minimalist decor is in vogue.

Modern decor does not support the interests of people with hearing loss. The hallmarks of contemporary restaurant decor are one large room with bare floors and high ceilings. These architectural features only amplify an already noisy situation. 

With music blaring, diners all speaking at once around you, and staff clanging dish and flatware sharply, it’s no wonder the word restaurant sparks fear in the hearts of those with hearing loss. 

While bare walls, minimalist design, and large open spaces might look chic and sleek, they do nothing to reduce noise levels. That’s the opposite of what one would do if trying to muffle sound or provide a relaxing ambiance. Also, loud colors and sharp angles sometimes add a visual component to the loudness of a space. Perhaps the audible decibels are not made louder, but the overall feeling effect is the same. 

Think of a spa if you need a comparison to a modern restaurant design. They’re often carpeted and have soothing color schemes. The furniture is soft and plush. This does much to add physical comfort, but it has the added effect of absorbing excess sound as well. The entire interior makes guests speak in almost reverent, hushed tones. 

A more traditional restaurant will hit those same notes with low ceilings, soft music, carpeted floors, and plush fabric seating. These hallmarks of a throwback spot can be found in authentically historic restaurants across the country. There’s also a trend for nostalgia, so don’t be surprised to see new dining destinations that manufacture these trends of yore. Perhaps it’s on purpose to preserve a favorite look, or maybe time just happened to pass them by.

Are you struggling to hear when you go for a meal with friends and loved ones? Loud restaurants don’t help, but you may be able to improve your hearing. Visit us to schedule a hearing test and consult on your current hearing abilities with our friendly team.