by Daniel Fink, MD
Ever since I developed tinnitus and hyperacusis from a one-time exposure to loud restaurant noise, I have been looking for a quiet restaurant (see the Acknowledgements section at the end of my editorial in the January 2017 American Journal of Public Health, “What Is a Safe Noise Level for the Public?“).
It turns out I’m not the only one complaining about restaurant noise.
Restaurant noise is the number one complaint of diners in New York, San Francisco, Portland OR, and Boston. In fact, the Boston Globe just recently wrote about diners’ dislike of restaurant noise in a piece titled, “Listen up: Restaurants are too loud!”
Restaurant owners may think that noise increases food and beverage sales, and decreases time spent at the table, and they are right. But what they cannot measure is how many meals are lost because people like me don’t go to noisy restaurants with family or friends, choosing to dine at home, instead, where we can converse as we enjoy our meal. Perhaps restauranteurs should consider that we middle-aged folks are more likely to spend money in restaurants than other demographic groups. After all, for many of us our kids are done with college, our mortgages are paid off, we’ve been saving for retirement, and we have the disposable income to enjoy a nice meal out more frequently than in our youth. If there were quieter restaurants, we might dine out more often instead of avoiding them because we would rather not have a side of hearing loss with our steak frites.
I guess that as long as the restaurants are busy, they will stay noisy. But if enough of us speak up–in the restaurants and to our elected representatives, asking them to pass laws requiring some limits on indoor noise–restaurants will eventually get quieter.
Dr. Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.