Tag Archive: loud restaurants

High noise levels are dangerous for more than your ears

Photo credit: Eden, Janine and Jim licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I have written about high ambient noise levels as a disability rights issue for those with auditory disorders, and I’ve also noted that ambient noise levels in restaurants and bars are loud enough to cause hearing loss. A fascinating article by in The Atlantic also suggests that high ambient noise levels are a risk factor for COVID-19 transmission.

interviewed Muge Cervik, a lecturer in infectious disease at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and a co-author of an extensive review of Covid-19 transmission conditions, who noted that what makes controlling COVID different from controlling an influenza outbreak is that transmission is more random–a few people infect a lot of others, in clusters of infection, while most infected people don’t infect anyone else. And loud talking is a risk factor for super-spreading of COVID-19. writes that Cervik told her that:

In study after study, we see that super-spreading clusters of COVID-19 almost overwhelmingly occur in poorly ventilated, indoor environments where many people congregate over time—weddings, churches, choirs, gyms, funerals, restaurants, and such—especially when there is loud talking or singing without masks. For super-spreading events to occur, multiple things have to be happening at the same time, and the risk is not equal in every setting and activity….

If ambient noise levels exceed about 75 A-weighted decibels*, people have to talk more loudly to be heard.  And often they may move closer together than the usual 3-4 foot social distance to a more intimate 1-2 foot distance. Of course, 3-4 feet is already less than the 6 foot safe social distance recommended for reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The Noise Curmudgeon, a Canadian blogger who writes about noise, noted that Toronto offered the following guidance for bars and restaurants:

It is advised to keep the volume of music, either live or recorded, at a reasonable level-one that does not cause customers to raise their voices or shout, thereby possibly increasing the risk of transmitting the virus.

He went on to write:

And there you have it – turn that background music down so I don’t risk spreading or getting the corona virus! Now we have clear permission make the request without feeling like we are messing up other peoples’ background music. Perhaps if this virus continues for very long, low or no background music will become the “new normal”!! Yay!!!

We couldn’t agree more.

Because if a restaurant or bar sounds loud, it’s too loud, and your hearing is at risk.

And now, high ambient noise levels in restaurants and bars are a risk factor for COVID-19 transmission, too.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Nigella Lawson hates loud restaurants

Photo credit: Brian Minkoff- London Pixels licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

According to this article in the UK’s Daily Mail, food writer and TV chef Nigella Lawson doesn’t like loud music in restaurants because it “drowns out the taste of the food.”

There is published research showing that noise can affect food choices and change taste sensations, but that’s not why most people complain about restaurant noise.

Most of us complain about it because we want to have a nice conversation with our dining companions, and that’s just not possible in most restaurants today.

I’m old enough to remember when secondhand smoke made dining unpleasant. People complained, and science showed that secondhand smoke was a health danger. As a result, laws and regulations changed, and now almost all indoor spaces are smoke free.

There can be no rational doubt that noise is a health and public health hazard, and that sound levels in many restaurants are loud enough to cause hearing loss.

If enough people complain to their elected officials and demand regulation, restaurants can be made quieter, too

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Real estate survey shows number one complaint about neighbors

is noise.  Real estate firm Trulia surveyed users about “neighbor pet peeves” and found that noise was the number one pet peeve, and that millennials were more likely to complain about noise than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.  In fact, the survey showed that 83% of millennials identified noise as their biggest pet peeve, while only 71% of Gen Xers and 54% of Baby Boomers did.  So much for the belief that noise is something that only older people complain about.  it would be interesting to survey millennials about noise in restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, since restauranteurs apparently believe that loud restaurants are bustling, convivial, and perceived as “lively and successful,”  rather than uncomfortable, challenging, and painful.

Dear restaurant owners: we don’t go to your restaurants to listen to music!

Brits complain that minimalist decor and loud music are driving them away from restaurants.  Action on Hearing Loss, a British charity, has conducted a survey in which they found that “90 per cent of people with hearing difficulties felt background noise was the biggest problem they faced when eating out.”  The survey also found that “79 per cent of [respondents] said they had left an establishment early because of the sound levels and 91 per cent of those asked said they wouldn’t go back to a noisy venue.” 

Not mentioned in the article is the theory that restauranteurs deliberately play loud music in an attempt to scare away older customers, since these restauranteurs must all covet a younger crowd that presumably loves stereocilia-destroying music.  If true, they will no doubt ignore the advice offered in the articl to temper the loud volume, but they should not ignore the warning noted in the piece.  Namely, Action on Hearing Loss “is now hoping to develop an app which will allow people to take a decibel recording for restaurants, posting it onto a forum and allowing people to avoid particularly noisy establishments.” 

New Yorkers already have a tool they can use to help them avoid mind-numbingly loud restaurants.  Our sister site, Quiet City Maps, reviews noise levels of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, parks and privately owned public spaces throughout the city.  Click on the link to read the reviews and to check out the map, which shows you the good, the bad, and the ugly with easy to understand color icons.  A mobile app is in the works, so please send any suggestions of (relatively) quiet places their way.

 

An audiologist explains why noise is much more than a mere annoyance.

In “Why City Noise Is a Serious Health Hazard,” Eric Jaffe writes about noise in New York City.  His piece extensively quotes Craig Kasper, chief audiologist at New York Hearing Doctors, who notes how persistent noise complaints have been, citing a 1905 headline in the Times claiming New York to be “the noisiest city on earth.”  Kasper also discusses all of the ways in which noise adversely affects health and wellbeing (e.g., loss of sleep, anxiety, cardiovascular difficulties, etc.), adding that his patients “complain of loud restaurants the most.”  Oddly, this otherwise thoughtful piece concludes with Kasper stating that “noise adds to the charm of New York—and, really, any big city.”  It’s hard to accept that something as potentially damaging as noise can be described as charming.  Still, this short piece is worth a read.