Tag Archive: quiet city map

Want a side of peace and quiet with your meal?

You are not alone: Diners want noise off the menu.

NOTE: The statement in the article that “[t]he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends less than eight hours of sustained exposure to noise louder than 85 decibels,” is wrong in its implied scope.  In February 2016, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) posted an article on its Science Blog that stated that the 85 dBA noise exposure limit was intended only as a limit for occupational noise exposure and not as a safe noise exposure limit for the public at large.  See, NIOSH Science Blog clarifies difference between occupational and general noise exposure limits.  According to Daniel Fink, M.D., a leading noise activist, the only evidence-based safe noise exposure level for the public was calculated by the Environmental Protection Agency to be 70 dB (unweighted) average noise exposure for a 24 hour period.  See, Information on Levels of Environmental Noise Requisite to Protect Public Health and Welfare with an Adequate Margin of Safety.

The danger to hearing posed by restaurant noise is so obvious

even the NY Post has written about it.

Steve Cuozzo of the NY Post reports that “leading otolaryngologists — better known as ear, nose and throat specialists — warn that dining at the city’s noisy restaurants can lead to hearing loss.”  In his piece, Cuozzo interviewed Dr. Darius Kohan, director of otology/neurotology at Lenox Hill Hospital and its affiliate Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, who states that, “[he tells his] patients to avoid these places,” adding that loud restaurants are the number one complaint he gets as an ear doctor.

Cuozzo visited a number of Manhattan hotspots where he recorded decibel readings from 90 to 101, all of which have the potential to permanently damage hearing over time.  Again quoting Dr. Kohan, he writes that “[w]ith repeated, prolonged exposure, ‘you start losing high-frequency sounds such as women’s and children’s voices,’ adding that “[i]f damage to the cells advances to a certain point, ‘a consequence is that you begin to lose hearing.’

Importantly, the article highlights the insidious nature of this aural abuse, particularly with respect to the customers.  Namely, that “[u]nlike restaurant employees, whose ears take a beating night after night, customers might not even know it’s happening.”  As a result, if and when customers begin to suffer hearing loss, they may “think it’s just from age.”

Equally important, the reporter takes care to note that not everyone who complains about the noise levels “are old fogeys.”  As noted in an earlier post, one reason that restaurants are so loud is the misguided belief that younger customers are drawn to loud spaces.

One hopes that the recent spate of articles decrying the levels of noise in American restaurants encourages city governments to regulate indoor noise pollution at places of public accommodation.  One thing is becoming increasing clear: loud restaurants are not a mere annoyance, they are a health issue.

Thanks to M. Slice for the link.

Architecture and sound

In Dear Architects: Sound Matters, Michael Kimmelman has written a fascinating article on sound as a component of architecture.  The article uses multimedia elements that allow the reader to hear the images, which makes the piece all the more powerful.  Kimmelman believes that sound is an element that adds texture to a space, for example the ambient noise in Grand Central which “rises upward and outward, toward the hall’s immense ceiling, embodying the impression of the terminal as a soaring gateway to a great metropolis, promising adventure.”   He also acknowledges how noisy cities have become, noting that:

During the Middle Ages, smell was the unspoken plague of cities. Today it is sound. Streets, public spaces, bars, offices, even apartments and private houses can be painfully noisy, grim and enervating.

It is the failure to consider sound when designing spaces, particularly public spaces, that allows sound to become overwhelming, to become noise.  This failure of design can be heard in almost every new “it” restaurant (and the wannabes) where the only consideration appears to be the space’s visual impact.  This is disconcerting because “[a]coustics can act in deep, visceral ways, not unlike music (think of the sound of an empty house).”   And there is no respite from the sounds of the city when your attempt to escape the crowded and noisy streets leads you to a crowded and noisy restaurant, bar, or enclosed public space.

One hopes that architects and designers consider how the design of a space and the materials used allow the people who will use the space to appreciate the sound of their footsteps as they cross the floor or, as Kimmelman observed, the reassuring “heavy clunk” of a solid wood door over a hollow one.  He adds that “we don’t talk nearly enough about how sound in these buildings, and in all the other spaces we design, make us feel.”  No argument here.  It is the failure to consider the affect of competing, discordant, and uncomfortably loud sounds that has made city living more difficult over the last few decades.  So let’s hope that architects and designers consider how unnerving and uncomfortable spaces become when they are designed only for their visual impact and without a thought towards how they sound.

Thanks to Daniel Fink, M.D., a noise pollution activist in the Los Angeles area, for the link.  Dr. Fink serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association.

Quiet City Map: Manhattan℠

We are happy to announce the launch of our sister site, Quiet City Map.   Quiet City Map is home to Quiet City Map: Manhattan℠, a map-based guide to places through out Manhattan where the sound levels are reliably comfortable (and, sadly, some places that are best avoided).  The map provides ratings for restaurants, bars, coffee shops, public spaces (e.g., parks, squares, and privately owned public spaces (POPs)), museums and retail stores according to sound level and sound quality.   Quiet City Map will host both the map and individual reviews for each map entry.  We hope that you find Quiet City Map: Manhattan℠ a useful guide as you navigate the city.