Most Restaurants Are Too Loud for Conversation

Living with Hearing Loss was proud to partner with SoundPrint in its first annual Find Your Quiet Place Challenge. The campaign inspired participants globally to measure and submit sound level data in their local communities to raise awareness about hearing health and help make the world a quieter place. 

The results of the challenge are in.

  • 2,000 unique venues measured
  • 350 Quiet Places nominated by users
  • 78.1 dBA average sound level for Restaurants 
  • 80.9 dB dBA average sound level for Nightlife
  • 66% of Restaurants and 76% of Nightlife venues are Too Loud for Conversation
  • 35% of Restaurants and 51% of Nightlife venues Endanger Hearing Health

Additional data for Coffee/Tea, Retail, Gyms, and Other are below. 

Only 35% of restaurant sounds levels were rated Quiet or Moderate.
Two thirds of restaurants were deemed Too Loud For Conversation.

How it Worked

During October 2021, participants made SoundChecks at 2,000 unique venues, enriching the database and raising hearing health awareness. In addition, users nominated over 350 venues as Quiet. These nominations contribute to SoundPrint’s growing list of Quiet Places (currently at 2,000) by rewarding venues with quieter environments that are safe for hearing and conducive to conversation.

SoundPrint currently hosts Quiet Lists for 13 US cities, with more expected soon. An international list is also under development. To add your recommendations, use the SoundPrint app to measure sound levels whenever you dine out.

Using the SoundPrint app is simple. Once downloaded, your smartphone turns into a decibel meter allowing you to take sound measurements everywhere you go and submit them to the app’s database for the public to see.

Next Steps for SoundPrint

The contributions from the Challenge will enable SoundPrint to advocate for safe noise levels, help you find quieter places to connect, and protect the public’s hearing health. The data collected from the 2021 FYQP Challenge will be used to:

  • Establish an annual, evidence-based benchmark to measure progress of noise pollution efforts across venue categories.
  • Disseminate the information to the public to promote greater hearing health awareness. This includes organizations such as the American Restaurant Association, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the Association of Fitness Studios.
  • Put venue managers (of loud venues) on notice about excessive noise.

We look forward to continuing to raise awareness about the importance of safe noise levels, particularly in public places. For tips on dining out with hearing loss, read my blog How to Choose a Restaurant When You Have Hearing Loss.

Readers, do you find restaurants too loud for conversation?

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13 thoughts on “Most Restaurants Are Too Loud for Conversation

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      It will be interesting. Thanks for your comment.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      It looks like an international list is on the way. https://www.soundprint.co/quiet-lists/other-cities. Thanks for your comment.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Great point! So many people are looking for quiet for a whole host of reasons. Thank you for your comment.

  1. I applaud the effort, and agree that most restaurants are too loud for comfortable conversations (particularly for those of us with hearing loss). But I still have doubts about the measurement. The sound level in restaurants is variable, depending on how crowded it is when the decibel level is measured. I can certainly recall (from pre-pandemic times) walking into some at 6pm, and thinking this is great. But by 7 as it fills up, it’s a very different story. Then there is the matter of where in the restaurant you are seated and taking sound measurements. Avoiding proximity to open kitchens and to tables occupied by large parties (say more than 4 people) can make a big difference because it means steering away from areas where people need to raise their voices to be heard by their companions; and importantly it is common that in such settings multiple conversations are going on simultaneously.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      There certainly is variability. I believe that each SoundPrint records the time of day so there is a way to sort the information based on that as well as a place to make comments. Thank you for raising these issues.

  2. I struggle to find restaurants that are quiet enough to be bearable, much less to allow conversation. I miss the days of soft seats and booths designed to encourage relaxation and lingering. I have read that this is driven to a large ex rent by economists: loud noise leads to more alcohol consumption and more rapid turnover, both of which increase profits. I use a musician’s earplug (I’m single-sided deaf), which helps me to tone down the din while at the same time hear my husband.

    With regard to the study, I have two comments. First, I would like to have participated in the study but Sound Print cannot function if I am wearing my hearing aids. Second, I would have greatly appreciated the inclusion of data on movie theaters. I have to remove my HA’s, insert an earplug, and add noise-canceling earphones to be able to bear to go to the movies.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      It would be interesting to know about movie theaters too. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for helping spread the word!

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