Have you ever noticed that restaurants are usually really noisy?
People go to restaurants or cafes to socialise with friends and family, and consequently these places are usually quite noisy. However, for people with hearing loss, like me, this noise is a problem.
Like a lot of people with hearing loss I struggle to communicate with others when there is a lot of background noise. People have to shout to make themselves heard over everybody else.
Often I have felt isolated if I am with a group of friends in a noisy restaurant. The noise of chatting, moving chairs, clattering of cutlery, means that I miss what everybody is saying. This is especially a problem with groups because people tend to talk over each other.
A recent survey of 1,461 people by the charity Action on Hearing Loss found that 8/10 people had left the restaurant early because of excessive noise levels. 81% said they had difficulty holding a conversation, and 91% said they would not go back to a place where the noise was too loud.
This shows that noise in restaurants, bars and cafes is a big problem. There are 11 million people in the UK with hearing loss so noisy restaurants are missing out on a lot of customers.
There is a way to reduce noise levels however, by adding more soft furnishings to absorb more sound. Tablecloths, cushions and carpets could all help to solve excess sound.
Restaurants could have special quiet areas away from other diners. Or they could have a limited number of tables in each room so there are less people competing to be heard.
I think it would be good to have some tables in clear soundproof booths, so people can have quietness and also privacy. They would still be able to see everything going on in the restaurant but it would be quieter.
An interesting thing I’ve noticed though is that in quiet restaurants, particularly the posh ones, people feel like they have to talk quietly just because everyone else is. They don’t want to be the noisiest one in the room.
The result is that I still struggle to understand what they’re saying, even if the place is quiet, because they are whispering!
It’s a kind of social norm that people don’t want to break with. They think “Oh, this place is quiet, therefore I have to be quiet too.”
That’s fine if too much noise would annoy other people, but being too quiet annoys ME because I can’t understand you.
So, Action on Hearing Loss are campaigning for restaurants, cafes and bars to alter their premises to try and minimise unnecessary noise.
check out their website for more information about this: https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/speakeasyreport.aspx