It’s no secret that restaurants can be noisy. All too often you sit down in a restaurant and turn to speak to the person next to you, only to find that you can’t hear a single thing they are saying.
Excessive restaurant noise seems to be a worsening problem as Australia’s vibrant restaurant culture moves grows and evolves. The Sydney Morning Herald’s weekly Good Food magazine recently investigated this trend in their August 6th issue.
Louise Tarrant, the National Secretary of hospitality union United Voice, explained the situation to Good Food. “Noise has escalated with the rise in the trend for minimalist [decor in] restaurants, and we’re concerned that restaurant owners aren’t taking the problem seriously because they even want to increase the allowable noise levels,” she says.
Minimalist décor does seem to be at the heart of the issue. Gone are the days of fine dining restaurants with heavy drapes, plush carpet and crisp tablecloths – all of which absorb and soften sound. These days, you’re more likely to walk into a cavernous space full of marble, stainless steel and polished concrete. “This is a perfect recipe for a noisy restaurant,” engineer Daniel Castro explains.
The noise level in a busy restaurant can reach 90 decibels. This is comparable to standing near a power drill, and is officially classified as dangerous. In fact, as Good Food explains, “In Victoria and NSW, 85 dBs is the end of the WorkCover safe limit at which workers can complete an eight-hour day without wearing ear protection.”
If loud restaurants are an annoyance for those who can hear perfectly well under normal circumstances, they can be an absolute nightmare for the hard of hearing.
Trouble hearing above intrusive background noise is one of the most common complaints of people with hearing loss. A loud environment can turn even the mildest of hearing loss into a serious social obstacle. Having a conversation in a noisy restaurant can be downright impossible for the hard of hearing, who are often relegated to the sidelines of a noisy social outing.
Quite simply, noisy restaurants and cafes are exacerbating the social isolation already felt by those living with hearing loss.
And the rest of Australia seems to agree – restaurants have indeed become too loud. According to a survey conducted by Good Food, 83% of those surveyed concurred that the situation had become unbearable. Hopefully, restaurateurs will listen to the majority and turn down the volume! If they can hear us over the noise, that is.