No one wants to walk into a mausoleum
April 18, 2018 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Loud restaurants aren’t just irksome — they’re a public health threat, especially for the people who work at or regularly patronize them. Being exposed to noise levels above 70 to 80 decibels — which many restaurants subject you to these days — causes hearing loss over time. Why restaurants became so loud — and how to fight back
posted by Cash4Lead (135 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
This has always been a big problem for me. When I go out with my wife or friends I want to be able to talk to them without shouting. Dining in loud restaurants is just exhausting and physically unpleasant. The reasons given for why this trend started are idiotic.

No one wants to walk into a mausoleum.

I do. That sounds great. But seriously, playing music at a background volume isn't some obscure secret art. Why is that so seemingly hard for restaurants to get?
posted by Sangermaine at 8:32 AM on April 18, 2018 [57 favorites]


I often fantasize about breaking into restaurants at night and installing acoustic panels.

Weirdly, we have a restaurant in an old church here and it really isn't among the worst offenders.
posted by selfnoise at 8:33 AM on April 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


YES. I’ve started to do the boring thing and go early if I want to check out a new trendy place, or just skip going to certain places. It’s isolating not being able to hear or focus on a single conversation, and if the space is super reflective, I sometimes actually get dizzy.
posted by Secretariat at 8:35 AM on April 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


Eat at 6, not at 7. You get home earlier and you have the restaurant to yourself and a few seniors.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:35 AM on April 18, 2018 [16 favorites]


Yes. This. And also the ubiquity of televisions in casual restaurants. Ugh.
posted by jferg at 8:36 AM on April 18, 2018 [56 favorites]


Not just the noise, but restaurants that blast music often choose bizarrely inappropriate music to blast. Like you'll be in a lovely little Italian restaurant and they'll be playing really loud dance or electronic music. Why bother going to all the trouble of creating a theme and a certain ambience for your place if you're just going to destroy it in the most obtrusive possible way?
posted by Sangermaine at 8:38 AM on April 18, 2018 [23 favorites]


i have chronic ttts with both tinnitus and hyperacusis and it's like having mic feedback crackling in your ear speakers just fucking CONSTANTLY. i would rather die face down in the gutter outside a loud restaurant than be stuck inside of one desperately trying to hear what the person a mere foot away from me is bellowing at the top of their lungs.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:41 AM on April 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


I'm severely hearing impaired. I have a problem carrying conversations in any high-ceilinged place as it is. Loud restaurants have reduced my already poor ability to NIL, so I'm just left nodding away to whatever it is my dinner companions are saying (more than usual, I mean).

My solution? I stopped going out.

Your win, restaurant owners.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:41 AM on April 18, 2018 [16 favorites]


Also, restaurants are noisy so guests don't linger. American restaurants want to turn a table three times a night. If it's comfortable and not punishingly loud the guests might linger. So make it loud and uncomfortable and rush them out!

I don't eat out much.

Meanwhile, France and Germany and most of the rest of Europe don't have this problem. Mostly because people are better behaved and don't, say, bellow at each other and play amplified noise on their iPhones and shout at the staff. Also the restaurants are better designed for noise. I mean you've still got boisterous cafes and bierhalls and lively crowded places, particularly in cities, but at any fine restaurant it's going to generally be a quiet and comfortable experience.
posted by Nelson at 8:42 AM on April 18, 2018 [12 favorites]


Eat at 6, not at 7.

SHHHHHHHHH. you're giving the game away!
tbh, when i get the chance to go out, i roll up no later than 5:30, preferably on a random tuesday, and it's absolutely the best; most industry folk i know do the same, because we do not have the patience for yelling crowds and nonsense. there is a risk that you'll end up seated next to loud small kids out for early dinner, but often as not, you'll have the place to yourself. bliss.
posted by halation at 8:42 AM on April 18, 2018 [16 favorites]


Two examples from Cincinnati that mirror the article:
Taft's Ale House is in an old converted church and the space is beautiful and soaring and actively unpleasant to eat in. It is very difficult to hear what people at your table are saying when the restaurant is more than a quarter full. The secondary bar/lounge underneath the main church nave has great sound because of the smaller size of the room.

Nine Giant is a small brewpub (on the order of say a spacious two car garage). It reflects current design trends in that everything was minimal from a concrete floor and bar to just plain wooden tables. They were also probably working with a smaller budget and weren't expecting such a great response because it was immensely difficult to hear in there from day one. They at least acknowledged that it was an unforeseen problem and took steps to correct it via acoustic dampening tiles on the ceiling and wall art/branding that doubles as sound dampening. Now it is a very pleasant place to hang out.
posted by mmascolino at 8:43 AM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


No one wants to walk into a mausoleum.

WTF?

I keep a mental list of all the places in Boston where one can have a beer and a quiet chat with someone.

Unfortunately, it's a short list.
posted by ocschwar at 8:43 AM on April 18, 2018 [29 favorites]


I often fantasize about breaking into restaurants at night and installing acoustic panels.

If you're looking to round up a team for this I'm in. Also. Carpeting. Much carpeting. Yeah, I know, it's not the greatest floor surface for a bar or restaurant for a whole bunch of obvious reasons, but acoustically? Hell yes.

I dunno about this bit in the article: As a Canadian working in the US, I am often struck by how much louder my fellow diners in restaurants seem to be, and how much more loudly the people I’m walking near on streets speak to one another or into their cellphones.

Anecdotally speaking, we seem to have the same problem here in Canada, and not just in places in big bad Toronto, either.

The most egregious example I've personally come across in Canada was when my husband and I went to a place for dinner here in Toronto a few months back and, when we left, we both remarked that our ears felt like we just left a loud concert. It was ridiculous. We were sitting side by side at the bar and had to shout into each others' ears. And we went early-ish in the evening, not the "hey now the restaurant/bar gets more clubby" hour.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:44 AM on April 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


Eat at 6, not at 7.

i'm ready for the early bird special at the rascal house tbh
posted by poffin boffin at 8:45 AM on April 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


Sound engineer here... doesn't take much to become versed in acoustics and most of it is common sense, yet some places go out of their way to hurt their design. I walked in and immediately out of a busy Chipotle once because their whole decor was aluminum sheets hanging around a raised ceiling. Multi-tiered seating is probably the best solution for an existing space, for anything more than head height (10-12") turns every person into a sound damper.
posted by bigmike485 at 8:48 AM on April 18, 2018 [15 favorites]


Ugh. A few years ago a hip new restaurant opened in my neighborhood. They had installed orange corrugated sheet metal on the walls as a design element. (I guess it isn't relevant that it was orange, but it kind of feels relevant.) That restaurant is a small space, ten tables at the most, but twenty people packed in there sounded like a hundred. I was so relieved when the food was only so-so and I knew I'd never need to go back.
posted by aws17576 at 8:55 AM on April 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


But seriously, playing music at a background volume isn't some obscure secret art. Why is that so seemingly hard for restaurants to get?

My theory, and this was briefly mentioned in passing in the article, is that the background music is now as much a part of the decor of the restaurant as the flatware and wall coverings. When Achatz opened Roister in Chicago, he actually solicited playlist ideas from customers.

So now the management wants that music heard. It has to be heard. But the room is too full and too noisy. So up goes the volume. Patrons speak louder to be heard. The cycle repeats until we get to 90 dB and beyond and it's not going down for anyone.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:02 AM on April 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I am a huge fan of going to places early because I cannot People most of the time, and as I get older, the tinnitus I gave myself from years of going to see live music sans earplugs means I can't hear very well either. (Nvm I started wearing earplugs in my late 20s.)

I also have to mind where we can eat with in-laws too as my MIL wears a hearing aid and most modern restaurants are out of the question for her.

I would also like to add that I viciously hate that nearly all pubs and restos have TVs in the multiple at their establishments.
posted by Kitteh at 9:07 AM on April 18, 2018 [18 favorites]


Anecdotally speaking, we seem to have the same problem here in Canada, and not just in places in big bad Toronto, either.

On the other hand, I did notice a very striking difference in Average Conversational Volume when I went to Japan. And that extends outside restaurants to city streets as well. There's just a difference in how English-speaking North Americans are socialised compared to much of the rest of the world that makes loud talking, yelling, and just general space-taking normal here.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:08 AM on April 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


Just reading the FPP here, before clicking through to the article or reading any of the comments, made me think of a nearby microbrewery/restaurant in a former church, which is excessively noisy when crowded. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that the example which opens the article, as well as one of the list items, involves a converted church.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:09 AM on April 18, 2018


No one wants to walk into a mausoleum

True, I usually walk around them to avoid breaking my nose.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:11 AM on April 18, 2018 [22 favorites]


> Eat at 6, not at 7. You get home earlier and you have the restaurant to yourself and a few seniors.

Also my preferred solution, but work schedules combined with modern urban commute times conspire against it.
posted by ardgedee at 9:15 AM on April 18, 2018


My mom is 60% deaf in one ear and going to loud restaurants with her is really just saying "Hope you enjoy sitting by yourself and not talking to anyone." There are a lot of places I'd like to try but haven't because I can just tell by looking at them that they are cultivating the loud aesthetic. One of the reasons I keep going back to the same places over and over is that I know that the noise level won't make my son cranky and I'll actually be able to talk to my husband rather than just awkwardly eating in silence because

I keep a mental list of all the places in Boston where one can have a beer and a quiet chat with someone.

Same same. My dream bars are the ones that are coffee houses during the day but start serving booze in the evening. Yes, more of this please!
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:16 AM on April 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


So many of my countrymen seem incapable of envisioning the happy medium, or non-extremes in any form. You don't want to eat your $80 meal in what sounds like the middle of a three-ring circus on tap shoes? Well! So sorry we can't offer you the mausoleam you wanted! Reminds me of that comment a while back about noise in theaters, where somebody said there was no middle ground between completely unrestrained audience noise and watching in church.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:16 AM on April 18, 2018 [43 favorites]


If it's mausoleum quiet in your gaff, put some quiet background music on. When it gets busier, turn that shit off again. How is this too difficult for seemingly any restaurant to manage? Everywhere seems to be either music or no music, always, regardless of the circumstances.

(Also, none of the mausolea I've visited have actually been particularly quiet, what with the big throngs of tourists there to see the dead person.)
posted by Dysk at 9:21 AM on April 18, 2018 [22 favorites]


I’ve noticed that restaurants are getting darker, especially fancy ones, to the point where people are using their iPhone flashlights to read the menu.

Oh good, so it's not just my aging eyes! Maybe I'm just noticing this more now, but there seem to be a lot of menus that use gray script fonts on dark backgrounds. I have no shame in pulling out a flashlight or asking someone to read the parts I can't see. I definitely prefer going out for brunch because it's brighter and most places have about the same menu items so I can just guess if I need to.
posted by AFABulous at 9:24 AM on April 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


the restaurants I've worked it, the only person manning the music was the server who happened to remember to turn the 5-disc CD player back on of which we had very little choice in the music selection of because fucking Garrett or Charles or whomever really just needed to put some industrial or dubstep on to get into his groove even if it was an extremely unpleasant listening experience for everyone involved. so then we were back to whatever the owner wanted which was always bad and out-of-touch because have you ever met a small business owner
posted by runt at 9:26 AM on April 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


Thanks for the article link. Am reading through, looking for points that can be extended to other contexts, such as science fiction conventions.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:27 AM on April 18, 2018


I'm another person who just doesn't go loud places. I have sensitive ears and a) the noise hurts and b) I can't understand anyone! It's not a pleasant way to eat. If I want to have people screaming in my ears at the tops of their lungs while I try to have dinner, and to fail to carry on a conversation with my spouse or guests, I'll eat at home with my children, thanks.

Related pet peeve, bands playing small venues, your amplifiers have settings other than LOUDEST POSSIBLE. You do not always need to turn it up to 11. It is not a stadium concert. It is a coffee house. Nobody can hear the fucking notes you're playing because it's a wall of distorted sound that's so loud it rises to the legal definition of assault.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:28 AM on April 18, 2018 [30 favorites]


Spouse and I were talking about this today when he used his phone as a music player for the first time. I am apparently a freak of humanity who never ever ever wants "background" music. I either want to be listening to music or not listening to music, And I especially don't want someone else's choice of song while I'm trying on shoes or waiting for an elevator or trying to chat with a friend in a bar. I think most places should not have soundtracks.

But yes, it's very interesting that this is framed as "you either get uncomfortable and damaging levels of noise in your restaurant or we shush you constantly and expect total silence." I mean, think about your standard office, where there are dozens of people typing, talking (on phones or to each other), using copy machines or even listening to spotify on computer speakers. Now think of your standard restaurant. One has a hum of activity; the other is an assault of noise.
posted by crush at 9:29 AM on April 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


There is a coffee shop near me that somehow always has just the right amount of background noise. It's very much got the bare-modern aesthetic, but the music is always low enough that you can just barely make it out, but not so loud that you need to raise your voice even a little.

It's not a hard balance for them to strike, and there's no reason it couldn't be done in a restaurant -- which generally have lots more soft surfaces.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:30 AM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Was just in old downtown LA for a few days. Ate in at least 3 restaurants that could best be described as cavernous. So loud, so chaotic. Sevres buzzing about, diners, or people waiting or doing who knows what, seemingly confused as to where to stand, if there even was a place to stand and wait and be out of the way. And the Market on Broadway? I wanted to check it out but couldn't wait to leave. Nearly surreal, but it was a Saturday around lunchtime.

Even the uber-cool coffee shop on Spring Street "Verve" was huge, noisy and confusing. Difficult to tell where to order, where to wait "we'll call out when your order is ready" and then people are handed hot cups of coffee on tiny little trays along with carafes of the steaming stuff and have to navigate back through the milling crowd to get their seats.

I just don't get the appeal of that. But the coffee was good.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:32 AM on April 18, 2018


tbh, when i get the chance to go out, i roll up no later than 5:30, preferably on a random tuesday, and it's absolutely the best; most industry folk i know do the same, because we do not have the patience for yelling crowds and nonsense. there is a risk that you'll end up seated next to loud small kids out for early dinner, but often as not, you'll have the place to yourself. bliss.

unless you are in south florida, in which case you will have to wait an hour for a table and possibly be trampled to death by a hoard of elderly diners there for the early-bird specials.
posted by vogon_poet at 9:37 AM on April 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Oy, the open offices... I worked at a huge agency in Chicago that had this. PLUS, they had "disruptive" counter-type spontaneous meeting "stations" sprinkled throughout. So you'd end up with spontaneous meetings of young people discussing their weekend plans, joking, flirting, etc ALL THE DAMN TIME. And this was supposed to be a thing that was encouraged and provided by this company.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:38 AM on April 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm severely hearing impaired.

One of the apps mentioned in the article, SoundPrint, was started by a hearing impaired guy who wanted to know where the quietest restaurants were so he could have a conversation.
posted by knownassociate at 9:42 AM on April 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


I heard one restaurant trick that some places use is to put acoustic panels under chairs as that added bit of quiet that nobody will notice.

I have been sorely tempted to come into our open plan office at night and apply them everywhere to see if it helps.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:43 AM on April 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


bands playing small venues, your amplifiers have settings other than LOUDEST POSSIBLE. You do not always need to turn it up to 11. It is not a stadium concert. It is a coffee house

oh man, I have only ever been to a single place where the band understood this. I was with a big party seated next to the stage and we were all eyeing the band setting up and being like 'well I guess this meal is over' when they started playing pleasant blues at like a medium to barely loud level. it was so nice that we ordered more sangrias for ourselves
posted by runt at 9:43 AM on April 18, 2018 [20 favorites]


bands playing small venues, your amplifiers have settings other than LOUDEST POSSIBLE. You do not always need to turn it up to 11You do not always need to turn it up to 11.

Oh god, I've played with people like that. Not for long though - there's always tons of guitarists available and some actually listen when the rest of the band tells them to turn it down.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:47 AM on April 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


The amount of music in public spaces is a very interesting concept to me, since it seems like it’s a quintessentially human invention, but maybe a musicologist or anthropologist can talk about it better than I. Haven’t humans been playing music in public spaces for centuries? Of course, that’s different than in restaurants.

I don’t find many restaurants playing loud music, and I’m slightly hard of hearing due to being a dumb teenager and not wearing ear plugs to shows. I find crowd noise to be the primary issue with my hearing, so loud bars present an issue to me. One of my favorite restaurants to go to in Portland is Portland City Grill, where they have a person playing the piano in the middle of the room and you’re on the 30th floor with huge windows, allowing you to look out over the city. Every time I’ve gone there I’ve been able to carry on a conversation and listen to the piano person and there’s a low murmur despite the place being packed. Great ambiance.

I will say though, if you’ve ever done a weak psychedelic and gone into public and noticed there wasn’t any music playing in a place that typically “should” have music, the awkwardness is overwhelming.
posted by gucci mane at 10:09 AM on April 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Uuuuugh this is SUCH a pet peeve of mine - particularly as I get older and I have a harder time distinguishing voices.

Like many others on this thread, I've just taken to not going out much. Which has the added benefit of being easier on my pocketbook than eating out, but I miss the social aspect in a busy schedule of joining a friend for a meal I have to eat anyway.
posted by dendritejungle at 10:10 AM on April 18, 2018


Ah, one of my favorite axes to grind as I am your friendly neighborhood audiologist.

The sound level of restaurants and bars is insane. It is a major health hazard, particularly for those who work there, and of course OSHA could give two hoots about trying to regulate these places the same way it does, e.g., factories (and even that is pretty, well, not regulated). It's also just terrible for my patients - difficulty hearing speech in noise is the earliest sign of hearing loss, and it is exacerbated tremendously in people with actual measurable hearing loss. There are lots of strategies in these situations, particularly for people with hearing aids, but for most folks it's just an untenable situation.

Loud restaurants should be an ADA violation, an OSHA violation, and they should be required to post warnings. Of course none of that happens, because hearing loss is a hidden disability that people think is a normal thing that happens to old people. It is not. It is by and large (with exceptions of course) a preventable and devastating disease.

What's insidious is that a lot of this noise damage is subtle, resulting in some minor tinnitus or more difficulty hearing in noise or trouble understanding accents, that kind of thing. It can take years for it to show up on a hearing test.

These places are giving you hearing loss. I walk past the college bars in my city and just think about all of the kids in there drinking and yelling that are going to be coming to see me in 20 years. I usually wear earplugs to eat/drink out. Here's a few important things to keep in mind:

-If you have to raise your voice above your normal speaking level to be easily understood by someone an arm's length of way, your safe time in that environment is limited.
-As the article says, get a sound level meter app. They aren't "calibrate your lab equipment with" perfect, but they give you a pretty good idea.
-Generally 85 dB is safe for 8 hours. Above that, your safe exposure time is cut in half for every 3 dB increase. Keep in mind that this is cumulative, so if you have other exposure during the day (this includes earphones), that counts toward that limit.

If it is too loud, turn it down if you can. It you can't turn it down, leave. If you can't leave, wear earplugs.

It's good job security for me I guess but you really don't want to end up in my office if you can help it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:12 AM on April 18, 2018 [106 favorites]


I carry earplugs everywhere, the neon drugstore disposable kind. I have no compunctions against pulling them out in otherwise "polite" (read: loud) society.
posted by Dashy at 10:15 AM on April 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


restaurants that blast music often choose bizarrely inappropriate music to blast.

Yeah, that's annoying and not very smart. I see it here in Europe, where restaurants in the old part of town will spend good money to push the authentic/national/ethnic/Old World angle with decor and menu and staff outfits, but then spoil it by letting the wait staff play the latest club hits at volume because they're tired of hearing the authentic/national/ethnic/Old World music at the authentic/national/ethnic/Old World restaurant.
posted by pracowity at 10:16 AM on April 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


A couple of decades ago, my parents started complaining that the old school classy restaurants they liked in Atlanta were closing down. This is because the things that once signified This Is A NIce Place had come to signify This Is For Old People. One of those things was quiet. In the kind of joints the parents favored, the bread crumb rake thing was practically deafening compared to the ambient hush. The new breed of restaurants was exciting, fast, loud. It was like a director's jump cut in an action movie. And, as people have tried to make their eateries seem even more youthful and exciting, I think they really have intentionally tried to make them louder.

bands playing small venues, your amplifiers have settings other than LOUDEST POSSIBLE. You do not always need to turn it up to 11You do not always need to turn it up to 11.

I went to see a bill with 3 amateur bands in a local small room, and they were all just way too loud for the space. The headliner was doing a release party for her like psychedelic-folk album. She sang and played this little Mellotron keyboard. (It's not really a mellotron, but they are now selling some keyboard branded that). The whole night she's asking for more in the monitor, can't hear the keyboards, can't hear myself. That's because your guitar player is playing a Fender Twin cranked up to where you wouldn't need to mike it to play a small theater! There is nothing the sound man can do for you, until that amp gets turned down.

About a year later, I went to see Chris Stamey's record release party at the same place, and it was night and day - the band sounded great and you could hear everything. You could hear the vocals! This is simply because they know how to set levels right.

Yes, I am too old. But it is also too loud.
posted by thelonius at 10:17 AM on April 18, 2018 [12 favorites]


One of the things I hate is when a restaurant has different music playing front of the house and in the kitchen, and I can hear both from where I'm sitting.
posted by Lexica at 10:23 AM on April 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


Many restaurants that are overwhelmingly noisy, have outdoor tables where you can actually hear yourself think. This is why I want a sidewalk table. And if I have to wait longer to get it, I want to wait outside.
posted by elizilla at 10:25 AM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


my parents started complaining that the old school classy restaurants they liked in Atlanta were closing down. This is because the things that once signified This Is A NIce Place had come to signify This Is For Old People

oh is that why people like the Colonnade?

;)

stuff on BuHi, once you're out of the well-lotioned, mildly scented suburban reach of Brookhaven, trends more quiet than most, particularly if they don't have a huge amount of Yelp reviews. I love Golden BBQ and La Mei Zi for this reason. immigrant restaurants do it right. bougie newfangled places downtown always fill me with regret in more ways than one
posted by runt at 10:28 AM on April 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


If you can't leave, wear earplugs.

do earplugs make conductive hyperacusis worse or is that just something fun happening to me for other exciting neurological reasons
posted by poffin boffin at 10:31 AM on April 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Am hearing impaired and just don't go a bunch of places any more - too loud plus hearing aids = tedious. I can turn my aids DOWN but that only lessens the pain, doesn't make conversations possible. I do complain about it to managers because if we don't how will it ever change. And yeah outdoors is better when weather permits.
posted by leslies at 10:35 AM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Back before smartphones I thought about creating a high contrast set of flipcards that you could put on your keychain or in your wallet. They would have short common phrases that you would say at a club. You'd just show your friend the card instead of yelling. For example:

- Be right back
- Another drink?
- Bathroom
- Leave soon?
- Dance?
- Oh no there's my ex with their new friend, look at that piece of $@%# We need to go right now before they see me

Nowadays, occasionally I text my friend in loud bars rather than yell, or type in notepad and show them the screen.
posted by AFABulous at 10:38 AM on April 18, 2018 [13 favorites]


Maybe I'll just put a white noise app on my phone and pump up the volume as needed.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:38 AM on April 18, 2018


if I ever open up a restaurant, all I'll play over the speakers are ASMR videos of people talking about how good their food tastes

mm wow I just... sigh... I just love this... mouthfeel mm
posted by runt at 10:40 AM on April 18, 2018 [33 favorites]


There's a new schmancy cocktail bar around the corner from us. The space used to be a regular neighborhood bar - a TV for showing the local game, wood bar, a few tables and stools. Now it's all concrete all the time, and the space is beautiful (and the drinks are quite good) but it's so loud when there're more than about six people in it that I just cannot.
posted by rtha at 10:44 AM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


This is why I prefer to throw and attend fabulous little dinner parties. I can invite more people with less noise, for far less money, enjoy actual conversation, skip the horror of the increasingly common NYC check split (divide the check by the number of people, never minding if some of us don’t drink and ordered the least expensive item on the menu), and otherwise make it worth the decades I’ve spent learning to cook.

When I want something I can’t cook myself (the fine foods of other lands), small hole-in-the-wall joints are better anyway.

I didn’t spend all that time in motherfucking charm school for nothing, you know.
posted by sonascope at 10:45 AM on April 18, 2018 [18 favorites]


For me noise-reducing solutions that involve physically blocking the ear successfully cut out most of the low-grade "background buzz" types of noise, rendering the remaining peaks of noise all the more startling and not ameliorated in the least. Earplugs in specific I have never been able to get working. The foam ones fall right out and the wax/plastic(?) ones alternate between feeling like I'm having my skull drilled... and falling out.
posted by inconstant at 10:46 AM on April 18, 2018


I'm a sound person who's first career was in restaurants. As mentioned above, very often if the music is loud to the point of discomfort, that is an intentional decision by the restaurant owner/manager. They want the experience to be unconducive to conversation so that you will ask for the bill and fuck off.

Other times, the acoustics of the room are miserable but no restaurant owner I've met has been willing to treat the dining room for better sound. It costs money and it'll disrupt whatever trendy aesthetic they're going for. Well, it could be done unobtrusively and with style, but for that you might have to hire a consultant.

Also, if the acoustics suck and the din of the patrons and clatter of dishes starts to overwhelm the music, you will have staff members cramping the music to hear it better because that's how they overcome the stress/monotony of their shift.

I still work in an over loud bar on weekends. I wear custom molded earplugs every shift, all night.
posted by Evstar at 10:46 AM on April 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's not just the music. The open show kitchens add to the din. That trend has been around for a long time and I hope it ends soon.
posted by missmerrymack at 10:51 AM on April 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


The owner of the bar I work in now asked me recently what she could do to improve the sound of the room, including the clarity of the music.

The bar is a former auto body shop/warehouse kinda space. The walls and floors are concrete. The tables are hard wood. The bar is metal. The speakers are 15ft up, shooting the sound overhead and reflecting off every surface.
She didn't like my answer so she's going to get a bigger amp to drive the speakers. Yee haw.
posted by Evstar at 10:55 AM on April 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


do earplugs make conductive hyperacusis worse or is that just something fun happening to me for other exciting neurological reasons

I've not had much experience with conductive hyperacusis, but ear plugs cause an occlusion effect that increase bone conduction levels for your own voice, so this is possible.

The foam ones fall right out

Roll Pull Hold! Roll that sucker between your fingers until it's skinny, reach around with your other hand and pull back on your ear to straighten your ear canal, push the ear plug all the way in, and hold until it expands. The top of the plug should be essentially flush with the entrance to your canal. Gotta get that sucker in there.

And yeah - custom plugs are just awesome. Comfortable, don't give you that bass heavy muffly sound quality. Expensive ($150), but last forever if you don't lose them.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:56 AM on April 18, 2018 [13 favorites]


I have actually walked right back out of restaurants that are too loud for me, and taken my patronage elsewhere. Same with ones where I have nowhere to sit that doesn't put at least three TVs in my line of sight—if I had wanted to stare at a screen over my dinner, I'dve stayed home where at least I can decide what's on.

I find that Japanese restaurants, on the whole, are nice and quiet. I like them.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:59 AM on April 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


In the 90's I went with my then spouse to a place called Chevy's. It was cement floors, corrugated metal here and there on the walls, high ceilings, loud music, and tables so on top of each other that I was almost sitting in the back pocket of the person directly seated behind me.

It was a struggle to even order with the waitress and us screaming, "What did you say?" over and over at each other.

We canceled and left because I started having a panic attack.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 11:02 AM on April 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Related pet peeve, bands playing small venues, your amplifiers have settings other than LOUDEST POSSIBLE. You do not always need to turn it up to 11.

As someone who has done live sound a bit in small DIY venues - you can usually get the guitarist or bassist or keyboard player or whatever to turn down (unless they're an absolute arse) but drum kits don't have a volume knob, and a lot of drummers just don't or can't play quietly. Sometimes overwhelmingly loud is the lesser evil, compared to seeing a full band, but hearing nothing but a set-length drum solo.
posted by Dysk at 11:06 AM on April 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


I stopped going to my favorite place that can please picky kids, omnivores and vegans because they always screw up your order. Because the servers cannot freaking HEAR over both the conversational din in a cavernous space, and the nauseatingly loud music that the owner puts on, on purpose.

I mourn their delicious food. But seriously, fuck that place. It’s too stressful.
posted by 41swans at 11:08 AM on April 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Sometimes overwhelmingly loud is the lesser evil, compared to seeing a full band, but hearing nothing but a set-length drum solo.

tambourines are fine instruments and every percussionist knows how to play these
posted by runt at 11:09 AM on April 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


Despite every "helpful hint," I've never been able to wear earplugs. They're incredibly painful.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:11 AM on April 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Asian places locally seem to have this about right - they usually have music on so it doesn't feel like your every word is echoing around the place, but it's soft enough that you can comfortably have a conversation over dinner. I'm not sure why Western eateries find this so hard to get right.

This I find really interesting. I grew up in Hong Kong, where an almighty din the louder the better, seemed to be the definition of restaurant ambience. It was to the point where occupational health inspectors would go round big dim sum places in particular with SPL meters, because the noise levels were genuinely harming staff. Western restaurants tended to be much quieter.

Over here in the UK, it seems to be pretty equal opportunities, but it doesn't tend to be bad anywhere that doesn't double as a bar. A lot of pubs and bars are unbearably loud.
posted by Dysk at 11:13 AM on April 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


tambourines are fine instruments and every percussionist knows how to play these

Rarely is this the sound person's call to make.
posted by Dysk at 11:13 AM on April 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


Sometimes overwhelmingly loud is the lesser evil

Only if the band or the venue has earplugs available for everyone who'd like them. I wish every amplifier came standard with a bucket of earplugs.
posted by asperity at 11:15 AM on April 18, 2018


Same, The Underpants Monster.

Lutoslawski, thank you for your kind advice. Alas, your description of straightening one's ear canal, like a rolled-up hose, and stuffing an earplug into it, like a marshmallow into a straw, only caused me to experience a whole-body wince.
posted by inconstant at 11:16 AM on April 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


Only if the band or the venue has earplugs available for everyone who'd like them.

Most venues have an outside space, or a back room where things will be much quieter. Nobody is being forced to be subjected to this at the sorts of places in talking about, other than the bands and the sound person.

But yes, every venue should provide ear plugs. Any sort of live music event without them is physically painful for me.
posted by Dysk at 11:18 AM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Pretty sure it was in another thread on this topic where it was established that restaurants do this because if people have to shout at each other, they just give up and get drunk instead, thereby making this barbarous practice profitable.

I also recall a story from that thread about a bar in Manhattan that played nothing but Gregorian chants (I'd be okay with Tibetan or similar), and that once an hour or so they would play a clip of someone saying: "shhhhhh...", after which the speech background noise would stop completely and reset. I have shared this idea freely, no takers in here Victoria yet.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:20 AM on April 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


My God. Some restaurants in New York (The Smith, I'm looking at you) are unbearable. Seriously, who designs these things? Sound bounces off of everything. Tile floors, mirror/tile walls, glass everything. I can hear your fucking tooth cavity filling clinking against your fork from across the room.

I would sooner dine in an airliner cargo hold.
posted by hexaflexagon at 11:21 AM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


not_that_epiphanius, that sounds like Burp Castle on 7th St. near 2nd Avenue. It has a medieval monk theme and the staff will shush people who speak too loudly.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:33 AM on April 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


Quite honestly, if I walk into any eating establishment at the dinner hour and see either a) a TV on or b) a band setting up, I am walking right back out again. I go to dinner with people so we can catch up and talk and enjoy each other's company and that is much less likely to happen if everyone's eyeballs are inevitably swerving to a television (my husband is the worst about this--he just gets transfixed) or you can't even hear yourself think over the music. If I want to see a band, I'll go see a band, at a venue where that's the primary thing happening.

We're also a family of vegetarians so we're not real likely to go to uber trendy places anyway, at least not since Meat n Offal became the new hip foodstuff.
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:38 AM on April 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


OK Metafilter people, we've all got our collective hate-on for loud restaurants. I'm with you too! Now then.. where are the people who like loud restaurants? There must be some, are we so out of touch?

I confess I get uncomfortable in restaurants that are too quiet. But for me that means empty, not quiet. A soft murmur is pleasant. I also have made the quiet=old assumption more than once, although as I get to be old myself that doesn't seem to bother me so much.
posted by Nelson at 11:42 AM on April 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Well, the Chinese word for "lively" (as a favorable attribute, and I've heard it used to describe restaurants) is made of the characters for "hot" and "noisy"? That's really the closest I can get to trying to suss out who on earth wants to eat in a loud restaurant.
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:50 AM on April 18, 2018


There must be some, are we so out of touch?

No, it's the children restauranteurs who are wrong.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:52 AM on April 18, 2018 [12 favorites]


Yeah, well, "salary" is made from the root of "salt" and I sure as hell am not gonna stand for it if I go collect my paycheck and they hand me a lump of salt, see?
posted by inconstant at 11:53 AM on April 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


Now then.. where are the people who like loud restaurants? There must be some, are we so out of touch?
The thing is, when I can cope with it, a loud restaurant is fun. It's exciting! It's energizing! It appeals to whatever part of my lizard brain loves crowds and parades and fireworks and rollercoasters!

It's just that I can rarely cope with it, because it saps my energy like a motherfucker and will give me a panic attack if I stick around too long.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:54 AM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


And I think more generally a lot of people experience loud restaurants as "this is supposed to be fun, everyone else here obviously likes it because they're smiling and shouting their heads off, it's my fault if I can't hang."
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:59 AM on April 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


The line between energetic/lively & obnoxious is a fine one. It also doesn't work for all styles of restaurants.
posted by mmascolino at 12:04 PM on April 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Restaurants should be loud enough that a conversation at your table is not trivial for the table next to you to hear, IMO. The problem is, restaurants are basically impossible to make your margins as a business and so many small business owners cram as many seats as they can possibly fit into the floor plan.

Some are way too loud, for sure. The main Philly food critic Craig Laban is well-known for taking his decibel meter on every review.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:15 PM on April 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


No one wants to walk into a mausoleum.

Some of us have... special... dietary needs and are tired of all the judging, Restaurant Guy.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:15 PM on April 18, 2018 [42 favorites]


#ghoulshaming
posted by poffin boffin at 12:18 PM on April 18, 2018 [28 favorites]


It appeals to whatever part of my lizard brain loves crowds and parades and fireworks and rollercoasters!

I think I lack that part of the brain.
posted by Dysk at 12:19 PM on April 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


The main Philly food critic Craig Laban is well-known for taking his decibel meter on every review.

That's pretty excellent. I bet if every critic did that it'd at least make a dent in the problem.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:23 PM on April 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


While I have no doubt that the custom plugs Lutoslawski mentioned are superior, I've found these under-$15 Etymotic plugs to work pretty well for occasional use. In loud spaces such as noisy restaurants (or mowing the lawn, or using electric shop or yard tools) they not only reduce the overall sound level but allow me to hear my dining companions more clearly. The down-side is that the sound is a bit muffled, though certainly less so than foam plugs, so it's slightly annoying but not a deal-breaker.

And hey, in a pinch, even tearing of two bits of paper napkin or toilet paper from the bathroom, moistening them just a bit, and using them as earplugs is better than nothing. Just be sure to leave enough sticking out that you can pull them out again...
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:38 PM on April 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


...a bar in Manhattan that played nothing but Gregorian chants ... and that once an hour or so they would play a clip of someone saying: "shhhhhh...", after which the speech background noise would stop completely and reset.

Pie Jesu Domine, (Shh) dona eis requiem (Shh)

Pie Jesu Domine, (Shh) dona eis requiem (Shh)
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:47 PM on April 18, 2018 [17 favorites]


Tom Sietsema, the WaPo critic who was quoted in the article, has been taking decibel checks for about ten years now, and including the readings in his reviews. Hasn't changed anything, though.
posted by PussKillian at 1:23 PM on April 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


If my current career doesn't work out, I'm starting a consultancy for acoustic design of food service spaces. I understand (but hate) why cheap NAm chain restaurants are so loud, but it boggles my mind when a fancy or design-focused trendy place is built like an echo chamber. It drives me absolutely nuts. I have very acute hearing, but something about the way I process speech means that I have trouble focusing on one speaker when several people are talking. And then, add music (especially if it has vocals) and I am ready to flip a table.
posted by LMGM at 1:34 PM on April 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I also recall a story from that thread about a bar in Manhattan that played nothing but Gregorian chants (I'd be okay with Tibetan or similar), and that once an hour or so they would play a clip of someone saying: "shhhhhh...", after which the speech background noise would stop completely and reset. I have shared this idea freely, no takers in here Victoria yet.

this reminds me of my idea for a bar that serves Trappist beers, which is extra-authentic because you are expected to observe the Trappist vow of silence, ordering drinks using an elaborate system of gestures.
posted by vogon_poet at 1:49 PM on April 18, 2018 [20 favorites]


There’s a small micro-regional chain of bar-n-grills that are acoustic nightmares. First, there are the bajillion flatscreens scattered on the walls, each with dedicated speakers blasting whatever game it happens ombe tuned to. Then, on top of that, there’s the music playing just as loud as the tvs. The topper is the layout of the tables, with tall 4-tops crowded as tightly as possible, making everyone privvy to everyone else’s conversations, since they have to yell to be heard over the tvs and music. GAH!
posted by Thorzdad at 2:01 PM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I would love to walk into a mausoleum. Either to eat, or to die.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:45 PM on April 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


Like you'll be in a lovely little Italian restaurant and they'll be playing really loud dance or electronic music. Why bother going to all the trouble of creating a theme and a certain ambience for your place if you're just going to destroy it in the most obtrusive possible way?

Hey, Italo Disco is a part of the proud heritage from the old country. (It's actually pronounced "eeetalo-DEESK", as any Italian-American will tell you.)
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:49 PM on April 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


> I am apparently a freak of humanity who never ever ever wants "background" music.

*hugs crush SO HARD"*

Me too! I can't tune it out. I feel like there's an additional person at the table or in the car.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:40 PM on April 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


appeals to whatever part of my lizard brain loves crowds and parades and fireworks and rollercoasters

The thing is, like - when I was single I liked bars that had loud thrumming base because it made my blood go hot and feel sexy and confident. But I do not know how that relates to restaurants where you presumably already know the other party.
posted by corb at 4:08 PM on April 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


I imagine there are people with lives more interesting than mine has ever been who sometimes want to feel sexy and confident while eating dinner. It sounds exhausting to me, but then I was already an old fart before I could drive.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:18 PM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


My feelings on background music have softened (somewhat) since, but the last time I wrote a comment on MeFi about how background music diluted the value of music and amounted to cheap emotional manipulation the very next comment accused me of having “serious issues” as I remember it, which feels like it sums up pretty well the cultural inertia that those of us who’d be happy with literally no music playing in restaurants or bars or what-have-you are up against. The two contrarian impulses that make me want to open a food or drink establishment are: one, the possibility of opening a space that has an aggressive No Music Ever policy (back of house excepted, because I’m not a monster); and two, the possibility of opening a space where foot traffic patterns are rigorously studied and compensated for so that you don’t have e.g. the bus person trying to pull a bus tray from under the cream and sugar table while people are doctoring their coffee or vice versa. Neither of them seem like profitable pitches, but they’d be great for some rich person’s vanity project.
posted by invitapriore at 6:19 PM on April 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Not to mention that pubs have become the domain of overamplified, emceed games like trivia and, yes, BINGO. I'm in New England... YMMV.

I don't frequent pubs much any more except for the occasional DSA small group mtg, and I'm glad to see that I'm not missing much. If I'm going to ruin my hearing I'd rather do it at a concert.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:21 PM on April 18, 2018


Also: loud places apparently sell more food and booze. I'm surprised the Vox article didn't bring that up.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:24 PM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


i think , well i don't want to say "us" because i don't know who we are, but is there not something of a protestant-puritanical disgust in this , mixed with a certain horror vacui ?
like , how better to paper over the fact that eating is a biological need , deeply tied to enjoyment as it may be , no less than shitting , than to season it, make it more palatable - you're not just eating , you're doing something sexy ! you're at a nightclub ! it's exciting , fun , sexy , you're not just in it for the nutrients , something is happening here. this place is happening
what i would really like , what i would truly enjoy , is destaurant - you sit down with friends , or a new romantic interest , or yours parents , each on your respective toilet , and take a shit ! evacuate what restored you / was stored in you. why can't we enjoy a shit together ? and NO muzak allowed !
posted by LeviQayin at 6:40 PM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm sure I've told this story before, so feel free to stop reading if you've heard it.

My father told about being a young Marine in Cuba when the higher-ups decided to start playing music over the loudspeaker in the mess hall to keep the men from dawdling over their meals. (An article on the subject had appeared in some publication that was popular on base.) The only records they had to hand were Sousa marches and Strauss waltzes. Dad didn't remember hearing lots of marches, but one day the Strauss just got to be too much and men started jumping to their feet and waltzing around the room with their coffee mugs as silent partners.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:40 PM on April 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


I don't know, it's not like I would ever frequent establishments where "the hits of the 80s, 90s, and TODAY!" rattle the bones of the diners, buuuuuuuut.

A lot of this goes back to places like Momofuku Ssam. And that has always been a fun place to eat. Energetic and idiosyncratic. The music's been part of that. The idea is ambitious food without the crumb scrapers. An unpretentious aesthetic. I'm infinitely more comfortable in a place like that than in Daniel, and I'm not the only one. There's a reason the style caught on.

I'm told that in his newer restaurants, Chang has been working on sound volume, which is fine. I just can't unreservedly join in the hate.
posted by praemunire at 9:57 PM on April 18, 2018


I just came back from the new Chang restaurant here in LA (majordomo) and was pleasantly surprised at how level the sound was: enough that you could pick up what songs were playing, but not enough to drown out your dining companions' voices. Great food too, especially for vegetarians(!).

Bottega Louie is still the burning example of a restaurant that is too. damn. loud. (And the food isn't good, either! And those early harbingers of "instagram desserts"--the macarons--are also terrible!)
posted by raihan_ at 10:06 PM on April 18, 2018


I don't "hate" places where the sound is ~80 decibels - I just avoid them as much as possible, and when I can't, I don't go back. I go to a lot of live music shows, and I wear earplugs. I don't want to wear earplugs when I am just trying to have drinks (AND TALK NOT SCREAM) or dinner with friends at a restaurant or bar. Like, Trick Dog, a cocktail bar not far from our house that has interesting cocktails and an all-concrete interior that is painfully loud when there are more than about 10 people there. That seems like poor design on the part of the venue, but I guess if enough people really love that kind of experience, well, have fun. I've been to Trick Dog I think twice and don't want to go back because that isn't fun to me.
posted by rtha at 10:46 PM on April 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


I go to a lot of live music shows, and I wear earplugs. I don't want to wear earplugs when I am just trying to have drinks (AND TALK NOT SCREAM) or dinner with friends at a restaurant or bar.

Fucking amen. I find chewing makes my earplugs work loose and fall out, too.
posted by Dysk at 1:36 AM on April 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


This thread is reminding me that way back in the 90s, my then-girlfriend used to drag me to Goth Night on Sundays at the bar a few blocks down from our apartment.

I was not into Goth Night. I was in no way cool or goth enough for the crowd, and the music selection was very limited. (Seriously, there are only so many times you can listen to New Order's "Blue Monday".)

However, the bar was never crowded on Sundays, and they a.) kept the music down to where you could have an actual conversation, and b.) sold drinks for around a dollar. I put up with everything else just for that.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:42 AM on April 19, 2018


No one wants to walk into a mausoleum.

Counterpoint: The Taj Mahal
posted by mikelieman at 3:51 AM on April 19, 2018 [11 favorites]


BTW, as a musician, I've been using variations of the Etymotic ER-20 for years to deal with other musicians' desperation for miserably loud music. They're attenuators rather than just foam earplugs, so you don't end up hearing every sound like Charlie Brown grown-ups whump-whumping through cotton, and are modular, so you can really fine tune the fit to your particular ear canal.

There's always a set in my glove compartment, because I only get one set of ears and I need them to work as well as possible for as long as possible.
posted by sonascope at 6:35 AM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


BTW, as a musician, I've been using variations of the Etymotic ER-20

I have fitted custom molds ( consult your CPA to see if it's a business related expense ) , but my wife and kids all get ER-20's.
posted by mikelieman at 6:59 AM on April 19, 2018


I remember putting on chainsaw hearing protection to work on PA's before people got their shit together. I've always cared. The moe. make-up halloween show a few years back might be the only time in 20 years I didn't have protection on me. Back in the heavy touring days, my taping gear included a bag of foam/neon earplugs... Here, take a pair just in case to everyone I met.
posted by mikelieman at 7:03 AM on April 19, 2018


I'm not sure what brand my current plugs are, but putting in another recommendation for the Christmas-tree style plugs (like the linked Etymotics) as generally pretty frequency-neutral and inexpensive.
posted by Dysk at 7:06 AM on April 19, 2018


When I went to the hearing specialist recently they were definite that most places are too loud for prolonged exposure. They also insisted that in ear earplugs should not be worn, only external ear protectors were recommended.

So I got some, and they are very good at blocking the sound out! I think they are -35dB. Very good for making the world a quieter place, but not very good for sleeping in, which is what I want to do with them. So far I have not managed to fall asleep while wearing them, but the world is a much more tranquil place with them on!
posted by asok at 7:30 AM on April 19, 2018


I adore Burp Castle and every time I've been there, there was no background music (chants or otherwise).
posted by brainwane at 7:58 AM on April 19, 2018


They also insisted that in ear earplugs should not be worn, only external ear protectors were recommended.

This is mostly bollocks, but some people will recommend this simply because people do not properly insert earplugs and therefore think they are protecting themselves when they aren't. Over-the-ear muffs on the other hand are fool-proof.

The Etymotic ERs are great alternatives to custom plugs! I used them for years before finally splurging for the customs.

Also, keep in mind that the Noise Reduction Rating of most hearing protection is pretty off. NIOSH says to take the listed NRR, subtract 7, and divide by 2 to get a more accurate NRR.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:59 AM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


some people will recommend this simply because people do not properly insert earplugs and therefore think they are protecting themselves when they aren't

I think he was also concerned about repeated use causing problems with the wicky wick wax, ear infections etc. Ear wax migrates out of your ear gradually and putting things in your ear tends to mess that process up, apparently.

I do have some Etymotic earplugs that I use for performances, I think they help me focus because I can't hear two thirds of the band, so I don't get distracted.

If people started going to noisy places with radio connected noise reducing ear protectors, maybe we could start a trend! Use their wifi to conduct conversations.
posted by asok at 8:08 AM on April 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


I bought a couple pairs of giant over-the-ear muffs for drumming at home, and they're really great since I can wear earbuds under them. My drums are in the basement and they're loud down there. I can't imagine drumming without them, even though that's exactly what I did for years in high school. Kids are dumb.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:14 AM on April 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


If people started going to noisy places with radio connected noise reducing ear protectors, maybe we could start a trend! Use their wifi to conduct conversations.

This sounds like a hellish dystopia.
posted by Dysk at 8:15 AM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Hey, it works for everyone. The venue still gets to play it's unnecessarily loud music, people who are energised by same are happy and people who want to have a quiet conversation can do so. Wearing mahoosive ear protectors. If you have a bit more cash you can probably get in ear ones, like Agent Smith or something.
posted by asok at 8:22 AM on April 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Or we could just have more than one place that exists, and people who want the loud music can go to the loud music place, and people who want a quiet conversation can go to the quiet conversation place. Like, you don't generally go to a gig venue for dinner. You don't generally go to a restaurant to go clubbing.

What you're proposing locks anyone without access to the funds or tech out of conversations altogether (and anyone with hearing issues that makes the use of ear protectors uncomfortable/infeasible, as well as anyone for whom the use of headphones is uncomfortable/unfeasible) and effectively gives license for extreme noise pollution. And this is before we get onto the security implications of having everyone's conversations take place over Bluetooth.
posted by Dysk at 8:29 AM on April 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


really it's such a design flaw that there is no way to self modulate your own hearing to the same degree as you can with sight and smell. no, sticking your fingers in your ears is not the same. i want an internal volume control for each ear.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:37 AM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Etymotic ER series plugs are really great, but it's got to be said that even the large size is too small to fit securely in many adult ears.

I've been happily using the V Moda Faders for over a year now. On Amazon their standard price is more expensive but they get discounted semi-regularly. There are good-quality frequency-compensating earplugs out now from a variety of companies, so it's worth shopping around.

I've never worn earplugs to eat at a restaurant, though. Occlusion will make chewing noises unbearable. If the restaurant really has to operate at stadium noise levels, they don't need my business.
posted by ardgedee at 8:47 AM on April 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


No one wants to walk into a mausoleum.
Counterpoint: The Taj Mahal


I didn't realize they served food there!
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:51 AM on April 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


One big screen is bad enough.
You need 8 TV's turned to different channels?
Fuck that!
posted by BlueHorse at 4:18 PM on April 19, 2018


I went with some friends for dinner at a new Turkish place and the food was really good but then this band started playing and the music was just so loud. We would have stayed for dessert (and Turkish coffee!) but just ended up asking for the bill and going somewhere else. It encouraged turnover but there wasn't anyone waiting for a table so it just meant they were out some dessert and drink sales. I'd like to go there again but the chance of too loud music means that isn't likely to happen.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:35 PM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


unless you are in south florida, in which case you will have to wait an hour for a table and possibly be trampled to death by a hoard of elderly diners there for the early-bird specials.

Thanks. Thanks for the ageism and shitting on people who enjoy living here for reasons you apparently aren’t interested in understanding.
posted by _Mona_ at 8:13 PM on April 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


i want an internal volume control for each ear.

Nah, then “disruptive listening” companies would work out ways to up the volume when their ”content” was playing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:37 AM on April 20, 2018


aha but your error here is thinking that i want some kind of mechanical/implant solution, when in fact i want a genetic redesign of human ear development.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:26 AM on April 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


then this band started playing and the music was just so loud.

Live bands at sit-down restaurants always make me annoyed. I didn't come here to listen to music -- I came here to eat. Can't I just enjoy a conversation?
posted by steady-state strawberry at 9:57 AM on April 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm okay with live music at a restaurant unless it involves drums, horns or amplification.
posted by ardgedee at 11:05 AM on April 20, 2018


Can't I just enjoy a conversation?

NO, YOU CAN NOT! WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR DRINK REFRESHED?
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:11 PM on April 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Restaurants with bands are great when you've had a fight with your partner on the way there and you're hungry but can barely stand to look at them, let alone talk to them.
posted by AFABulous at 1:05 PM on April 20, 2018


i used to hate feeling cornered by it but now i am inspired by the happy beluga enjoying yellow bird and i resent restaurants that fail to have a mariachi band
posted by poffin boffin at 2:23 PM on April 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I went to a restaurant in Minneapolis that had really great food: Revival. I will never return because it was *so* effing noisy. Oddly, we went late for lunch and they close from 1400-1600, so the place gradually cleared out. I suddenly noticed that they had annoyingly loud music playing. The acoustics were so unbelievably bad that until all the people shouting over each other left, We couldn’t even hear it. I’d guess it only sat around 40 people, too. It had to be intentional.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 2:50 PM on April 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


> There's just a difference in how English-speaking North Americans are socialised compared to much of the rest of the world that makes loud talking, yelling, and just general space-taking normal here.

This drives me and Mr. desuetude insane. We are Americans and yet DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY ALL THESE PEOPLE ARE SCREAMING THEIR CONVERSATIONS AT EACH OTHER. In retrospect, I was a louder talker when I was younger once I had a few drinks in me, so I initially ascribed the loud talking to get-offa-my-lawn youth, but squinting past that confirmation bias I noticed that fellow middle-aged people do it too.
posted by desuetude at 11:21 AM on April 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


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