Noisy Restaurants: For Those With Hearing Loss, It's More Than A Hazard

Jul 16, 2019

We're in the midst of a restaurant renaissance. With more options and new joints opening regularly, dining out is hipper than ever. But there's something else amping up this gastronomic experience: noise.

The ambient sound inside restaurants is climbing, now reaching into the high 70-decibel range. That's equivalent to a vacuum cleaner. At 75 decibels, it is hard to have a conversation without shouting. It's enough to cause hearing damage in all of us, and for people already experiencing hearing loss, a noisy restaurant can amount to discrimination.

The loud volume inside a restaurant can be injurious to diners with hearing disorders such as tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, and hyperacusis, or noise-induced pain. The inability to hear anyone around the dinner table is enough to keep some with hearing loss from dining out entirely. Under Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act, places with public accommodation must also accommodate disabilities. But when it comes to a hearing impairment, how can a restaurant comply? While some restauranteurs could turn down the volume of their music, it's hard to turn down the volume on other diners in mid-conversation, or the clatter of the kitchen staff.

Joining Cincinnati Edition to discuss noisy restaurants and what some restauranteurs are doing to help are WVXU food writer and Wine Me Dine Me author Julie Niesen; and The Hill Hear Better Clinic Audiologist Michael Hill, Au.D.

Listen to Cincinnati Edition live at noon M-F. Audio for this segment will be uploaded after 4 p.m. ET.

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