Working in the restaurant industry can be a noisy business, even more so now thanks to big changes in dining establishment design in the last decade. Gone are the days of overly patterned, stain-hiding carpet, privacy curtains, and heavy tapestries. Step into many popular restaurants now and you’ll be sure to see exposed beams, rustic wood surfaces, open floor plans, and exposed kitchens.
What does this new change mean for those working and dining in these eateries? Well, most importantly it means a significant risk to your hearing health. Curtains, partitions, and carpeting may now be out of style, but they did serve a very important function.
They had a tremendous ability to cut down on noise levels in an otherwise naturally noisy environment. Carpets and other tapestries helped to absorb high decibel levels caused by a hundred diners carrying on dinner conversation, the clinking, and clattering of plates and dishes, and the atmospheric music playing in the background. Partitions helped isolate a dinner table conversation, making it easier for a participant to focus in on their dinner partner and understand what was being said.
New Design Consequences For Hearing Health
Now things are a bit different. Without all that sound absorbing material and strategic partitioning, restaurants are absolutely buzzing with noise. Sounds from conversations, people laughing, pots and pans clamoring, and music playing bounces throughout the restaurant with no barriers to stop isolate it or even slow it down.
According to a recent survey conducted by one of the hearing aid manufacturers, Oticon, noise levels of five different top dining establishments across ten different cities during the busiest dining hour registered noise levels well beyond the 85db recommended as the upper limit for acceptable noise exposure.
While exposure to noise levels this high is expected every once in a while, for frequent diners, these new louder environments can pose a risk to hearing health. Even more at risk are individuals who work in the restaurant industry. Like other hearing health high-risk occupations, bartenders, cooks, servers, and bussers have had to find ways to protect themselves while at work. Since the growing trend of open seating plans and exposed infrastructure, the risk has worsened.
What Can You Do?
Keeping your hearing health protected doesn’t mean you have to stop going out to eat. But it may mean taking a few extra precautions to avoid noisy environments.
Avoid Peak Hours
If you typically dine out at the same time everyone else does, try going to your favorite restaurant an hour earlier or an hour later. Fewer people in the restaurant means a quieter environment.
Wait Until The Hype Is Over
New restaurants usually experience an influx of patrons for the first few months, meaning anytime you go to dine the environment will be rife with noise. Try waiting six months before you check out the new eatery in town. The hype will have died down by this time, and you can check the new place out, and have a conversation with a friend without having to compete with the noise.
If you work in the restaurant industry, take proper precautions to protect your hearing health. This means wear earplugs or choose shifts that are less likely to become polluted with noise.