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Hearing Blog

Enjoy your life to the fullest

January 16, 2023

What is the one of the top complaints of diners?  According to a Zagat study?   Ranking up there with long wait times and short staffing is the acoustics of the restaurant.  Restaurants seem to be following a new trend.  They are more open; they play background music to help ensure a good time for all.  This extra noise and multiple voices speaking at once makes it difficult to focus and carry-on conversations.... especially if you have a hearing loss.  Noise was reported 24% percent of the time as the top complaint.  Service was 23%, crowds 15%, high prices 12% and parking finishing up the tally at 10%.

The study looked at restaurants in 10 major U.S. cities during dinner rush time on Saturday.  It was found that the average decibel level was about 79 decibels (dB) with peaks as high as 138 decibels.   So 79 dB is like a garbage disposal running... or a diesel truck moving at about 45mph.   133 dB., is like standing beside a ambulance with a siren blowing.   Remember, average speech is between 60-65dB.   Over time, exposure to sounds or environments above 85dB can cause hearing loss.

The cities and restaurants that were surveyed: (and their “peak” at dinner time).  

  • Austin... with Lamberts Downtown Barbecue at 113 dB.  
  • Chicago...Siena Tavern at 138 dB.  (Ouch!).  
  • Denver... Acorn at 117 dB.
  • Detroit... Republic Tavern at 121 dB.  Nashville...Urban Grub at 133dB. 
  • Portland... The Observatory and Portland City Grill both registering 119dB.
  • San Diego... Barley mash and Ironside fish and Oyster both at 114 dB.
  • Seattle...Metropolitan Grill measuring in at 124 dB. 
  • St. Louis... Stacked SLT gets noisy too at 121 dB.  
  • Finishing out the study was Washington, DC ... Estadio at 116dB.

There were five restaurants examined in each city.  This was done at dinner time rush hour.  One hour time frame and the noise level measured every 10 minutes.  The average noise levels were also configured.   The two cities with the quietest dining scenes on average was Austin at 75dB and Seattle at 76dB.  The loudest average was Nashville at 82dB and Portland at 81db.   Of the 50 restaurants in the study only two were below 70 decibels while the average was around 80 decibels. 

It was interesting that the decor did not offer much relief during rush hour times.  Relaxed and formal dining with softer surfaces did not help much during “peak” times.  However, the newer “state of the art” steel and glass and tile restaurants always were louder and more difficult to hear in whether it was “peak time or down time”.  

So... what does this mean?  We are a social world.  We like to eat and laugh with our friends and family.  While it can be difficult when we have normal hearing it can be depressing and aggravating when we wear hearing aids.  Hearing Instrument technology and accessories like remote microphones are available to help control background noise and provide the patient with the best possible speech understanding.  Starkey Hearing Technologies latest “Evolv Ai” instruments actively learn your environments and make 55 million adjustments every hour to continually give you the best speech understanding in noise.  If you wear hearing instruments and having difficulties, then talk to your hearing health care provider about new noise control features and accessories that may help you in your specific listening environments.  You should enjoy your life to the fullest.  To Hear Better Is To Live Better!


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