Noise readings in some restaurants were found to be above healthy and safe levels

Decibel readings taken from a variety of hotel and non-hotel restaurants in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane have found startling levels of noise which may be driving potential customers away.

According to a study conducted by hearing loss solutions firm Bay Audio, more than half of the 1,116 people surveyed said they had left a restaurant early due to the noise, with more than eight in ten saying they wouldn’t return to a noisy venue. The company said it believed restaurants and cafes were missing out on thousands or potentially millions of diners due to their venues being too noisy.

They survey was carried out between 22-31 October 2018, with multiple restaurants visited between the hours of 5pm and 7pm during the week. Decibel readings were recorded using the Decibel X smartphone app.

The highest reading captured was an ear-splitting 92 decibels with others coming in close behind on 90db, 89db and 87db. Levels of 90db can be compared to eating next to a lawnmower. Hearing experts from the National Acoustics Laboratories say that prolonged or repeated exposure to noise levels over 85db can lead to inner ear damage and potential hearing loss.

Nearly 60% of respondents to the survey said a reduction in background music was the biggest change they wanted to see in some restaurants and cafes. Other top remedies included designated quiet areas being established for patrons to have better conversations, amending interior designs to make better use of noise-absorbing soft furnishings and training staff to better communicate. Nearly 75% of respondents said they would be more likely to visit a restaurant if venues were quieter.

Some survey respondents said they won’t return to a noisy restaurant.

Bay Audio National Clinical Manager, Ryan Allen, said the company wanted to help venues take excessive noise “off the menu”.

“Dining out should be one of life’s great pleasures, however these findings demonstrate that that’s not the case for people with hearing loss.

“Everyone loves going out for a meal with loved ones but the intrusive noise levels are making it difficult to converse and leaves many feeling like they’re missing out on conversations.

“Three quarters of people believe that restaurants and cafes have become louder in the last five years,” Allen added.

In conjunction with interior designer Rebecca Vulic, Bay Audio has produced a guide aimed at helping businesses address their sound levels and better appeal to patrons with hearing issues. CLICK HERE to see the guide.