Have you ever been struck by the hushed voices and soft tinkle of glass and flatware during restaurant scenes in old movies? Quiet used to signify an opulent dining experience, but now, it seems, the louder the better, even in high-end restaurants. So, if you’ve ever wondered if you’re imagining that noise levels in restaurants are increasing, you aren’t; and if you’re having a hard time coping with it, you’re not alone.
We have a few ideas about where all the noise is coming from, and what to do if you’re having a hard time hearing through it.
Why Are Restaurants So Noisy?
Décor Trends—Minimalist décor has been around for a while and shows no signs of shipping out again. Unfortunately, while all of those exposed beams and hard, shiny surfaces are visually appealing, they do nothing to absorb sound. Until the late 20th century, luxury meant thick drapes, carpets and velvet-cushioned furniture, but now we have to shout even louder to be heard as sound bounces around high ceilings and hard surfaces.
Cleanliness—At some point, restaurateurs got tired of the cleaning bills for getting spills and smoke out of all that velvet and thick carpeting. They nixed the drapes and tablecloths and installed easy-to-clean flooring. Now that a pandemic has swept through, it is even more likely that these easy-clean surfaces are here to stay, which means the noise bouncing off of them is here to stay, too.
Noise Signifies Fun—The louder a restaurant is, the more fun people appear to be having. And the more fun people are having, the more they eat and drink, so restaurants turn up the music and encourage a party atmosphere. Now that we’ve all gotten used to the fact of ubiquitous restaurant noise, even those of us with hearing loss have to admit that sometimes a hushed restaurant feels a little lacking in energy and appeal.
Open Kitchens—Kitchens used to be hidden behind closed doors, but they’ve been coming out since the 90s. People want to see where their food is coming from, but also wood-fired ovens, open flames and busy chefs contribute to a vibrant atmosphere. Kitchens are noisy, though, which adds to the din in the dining room.
What Can you Do?
Plan Ahead—As complaints about restaurant noise have ramped up, so have hearin-friendly tools, such as the Quiet Dining app, which rates restaurant noise levels. If you have hearing loss, consider calling restaurants ahead to request quieter tables and also dine off-hours, where possible. If loud music is a problem, it’s always worth mentioning to the host—even if they don’t turn it down for you this time, they might get enough complaints to turn it down in the future.
Try Noopl—Noopl pops onto the bottom of your iPhone and works with AirPods Pro or MFi (Made for iPhone) hearing aids to cut through noise in loud restaurants. Its directional hearing beam focuses on the voice of whichever person you look at, making conversation in loud environments possible again for those with hearing loss. While other directional hearing apps and devices are available, Noopl’s stellar signal-to-noise ratio shows it to be the most effective tool available by far (See the results of Noopl’s test against Apple’s Conversation Boost feature).
Restaurants are often where we make important connections with friends and colleagues, and people with hearing loss shouldn’t have to miss out. Planning ahead to secure a hearing-friendly space and arriving with the right tools to help you hear through the noise will help you keep up with the conversation.