Restaurants and bars play special music to make you eat and drink too much. This claim sounded a bit far-fetched, but then I read this article by the NYT: “Working or Playing Indoors, New Yorkers Face an Unabated Roar.”
Not only can the loud music and the rhythms make you eat and drink too much; it can and does damage the hearing of the patrons. Much of the music is louder than “a C train hurtling downtown in Manhattan.” Normal conversation is 60-65 decibels. Music in many restaurants exceeds 90 decibels, some exceeding 100 decibels.
How loud is too loud?
The background noise is too loud, Dr. [Gordon] Hughes said, if a person’s voice has to be raised to be heard by someone three feet away. Signs of too much exposure include not hearing well after the noise stops, a ringing sound and feeling as if the ears are under pressure or blocked. None of these symptoms necessarily mean the damage is permanent, though even if hearing seems restored to normal, damage may have been done. Yet hearing loss from noise typically takes months or even years to develop.
I played in a band when I was younger, and I do regret the damage I’ve done to my ears (I hear fairly well, but I have a difficult time discriminating a particular conversation in a loud room. Because I’d like to hear other people talk and because I want them to be able to hear me, I work hard to sway the selection process toward a restaurant or bar in which we can hear each other easily. Not only do I want to hear the word, but I want to hear the dynamic range of the other people–it’s hard to express oneself fully if one is always shouting. Nonetheless, despite my efforts, and despite the assurance that we’re going to a “quiet” place, probably half of these places fail the test quoted above.
Further, I find it strange that we have become a country where people need to wear hearing protection in order to safely enjoy many types of concerts.