Join others with hearing loss of all degrees for a chatty dinner on a Friday night!
A social aspect of the Hearing Loss Association of America Boston Chapter, the Quiet Restaurant group strives to create an enjoyable Friday night out with peers despite the challenges of hearing loss. Striving to find restaurants that will accommodate us with good lighting and private or quieter areas, not to mention allowing us to be the loudest group of all, we hope to enjoy dinner and conversation on the 3rd Fridays of the month!
There are busses from Davis Sq. but no parking lot so on street parking only.
This is a small, Mexican restaurant that the group went to years ago in the beginnings of the group’s establishment. Waitstaff were extremely kind in both translating the menu as well as accommodating our needs.
Please RSVP to Liz Olson at email@example.com by Thursday at 8PM. Late arrivals are also welcome, so long as I know you are coming.
A Library of Quiet Restaurant Readings
MY EARS ARE RINGING
February 19, 2016
Blue Cow Kitchen & Bar, Los Angeles, California, by Mass, renovated by Poon Design (photo by Alen Lin)
Okay, I won’t name names, but the guilty comprise many restaurants in Los Angeles and other cities. At these establishments, yes, I enjoy the food, the service and the architecture. But why can’t I hear my friends who sit across from me? Why is the noise level actually painful—my ears ringing from the haranguing clamor, and my throat sore from yelling mere table conversation?
I came across the post, How to Choose A Restaurant When You have Heraing Loss, from leading hearing health advocate Shari Eberts, on her blog, Living With Hearing Loss. In her post, she describes the challenges that those with hearing loss can have when dining out and provides suggestions for how to best navigate a restaurant environment.
While I complain about poorly designed acoustic environments, I can only imagine the overwhelming negative impact on restaurant customers with any degree of hearing loss.
Acoustical panels made from compressed recycled wood fibers painted red by Tectum, with cork wall panels, Saffron, Beverly Hills, California, by Poon Design
The irresponsibility is embarrassing. Most restaurateurs, architects and interior designers/decorators seem to be okay focusing only on the visual and ignoring the aural. Meaning, focusing only on what you see and ignoring how you hear. Listen, it is as if a lazy chef separated your taste buds from yours eyes, suggesting that your entrée doesn’t have to taste good, as long as it is looks good.
Recent interests in tuning up the restaurant experience to address the adverse effects of sound, vibration and reverberation is admirable. Though it is questionable to view the topic as a “new design trend.” Would we call safety a new design trend in automotive design?
To create a comprehensive design, don’t just select stylish furniture, nice art and an agreeable palette of paint colors. The notes below are only a start, but should guide everyone from chefs to managers to designers in achieving quality aural architecture.
Parallel surfaces can bounce the clatter of noise everywhere, even increasing it at times. A few degrees of shift or angle to any surface dissipate the echo. This can be done ambitiously with walls or easily with the placement of a wine display case or host stand.
Angled porcelain tile dividers at 8 Fish, Los Angeles, California, by Poon Design
Adding soft surfaces like upholstered furniture and wall coverings are givens. Think about attaching sound absorbing fabric to the underside of dining tables. As sound bounces from the floor up towards customers’ ears, the fabric reduces the impact. Absorbing material and industry acoustic panels can be hidden in dozens of places. You don’t have to install an acoustic tile ceiling, which makes your restaurant look like a corporate office.
Acoustic insulation laid out of sight, on top of the lid over the bar (left side) at Memphis Café, Manhattan Beach, California, by Poon Design (photo by Within A Dream)
I like “transparent ceilings.” Besides delivering the impression of a taller space, this approach produces one of the best acoustic solutions. As noise travels up, it is trapped by acoustic insulation. Another ceiling idea: varying heights prevent lingering echo, which also offers a diversity of scale.
left: Hickory slat ceiling at Sushi Noguchi, Yorba Linda, California; right: A lowered ceiling at Deluca’s Italian Deli, The Americana at Brand, Glendale, both by Poon Design
Ms. Eberts is correct about “Sound Absorbing Décor.” Almost anything can be engineered to diffuse sound travel, such as large painted canvases, ceiling sculpture, metal screens, wood lattices, or even light fixtures. Or, surprise a visitor with artificial grass used on a vertical surface, or a tree on the inside.
top left: Water jet cut, weathered steel screens in an interpretive Chinese pattern at Joss Cuisine, Beverly Hills, California; top right: Moveable white oak screens at Din Tai Fung, The Americana at Brand, Glendale (photo by Gregg Segal); bottom left: Mendocino Farms, Marina del Rey (winner of 2011 International Design Award for Best Restaurant from The American Institute of Architects) and West Hollywood, California, all by Poon Design
Restaurants are embracing modern design, but that doesn’t have to mean hard cold surfaces. Balance a concrete floor with walnut planks and brass mesh. Sleek surfaces are easy to keep clean, but juxtapose that polished stone countertop with a leather elbow rest.
Dividers at Chaya Downtown, Los Angeles, CA, by Poon Design, winner of 2009 International Design Award for Best Restaurant from The American Institute of Architects (photo by Gregg Segal)
Keep the high ceilings, but bring the intimate scale and noise level down with funky chandeliers.
Top: Each chandelier is made of wire fencing and 1,500 wood clothespins at Mendocino Farms, Los Angeles, California; bottom: Laser cut Walnut plywood lamp shades, Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, California (photo by Gregg Segal) both projects by Poon Design
Include acoustic ideas as part of every design discussion, not as an afterthought or something trivial. Think of your restaurant as an instrument. It needs to be tuned.
From TravelSmartNewsletter.com Quiet Dining… Ten Boston Restaurants
Tired of shouting over shrimp cocktails? Love chatting with a friend while sharing Chateaubriand? This is the first in a series of articles about quiet restaurants in major cities and is dedicated to those of you who agree with Lord Byron’s comment, “Since Eve ate the apple, much depends on dinner.”
Keep in mind that quiet may not mean the latest hot spot, the best bang for the buck or the cuisine of a celebrity chef. But it does mean having a lovely evening in a restaurant where the tables are more than two inches apart and the dinner and the diner are more important than the music.
Boston’s Top Ten “Quiets” were selected by long-time resident David Lubchansky, who has traveled the world as an executive with Grand Circle Travel.
1. Persian Delight. LaLa Rokh, 97 Mt Vernon St, Beacon Hill, 617-720-5511, www.lalarokh.com. This Middle Eastern jewel exudes serenity with acoustical paneling and upholstered chairs designed to reduce the noise level; cell phones are prohibited. Appetizers: $5 – $8; entrees: $14 – $19; signature dishes: kashk-e bademjan (roast eggplant appetizer), morgh pollo (chicken in light tomato broth and rice with spices).
2. French Charm. Hungry I, 7 1/2 Charles St, Beacon Hill, 617-227-3524. After descending below sidewalk level to a brick-covered alley to enter the restaurant, you’ll find yourself in a small, romantic, candlelit setting that evokes the French countryside. Ask for a fireside table or, in the summer, one in the lovely garden. Appetizers: $10 – $14; entrees: $24 – $36; signature dish: venison au poivre noir.
3. The Big Splurge. L’Espalier, 30 Gloucester St, Back Bay, 617-262-3023, www.lespalier.com. Has 3 serene dining rooms. Prix fixe menu is $70 p/p. Signature dish: roasted muscovy duck.
4. A Classic. The Oak Room, Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, 138 St James Ave, Back Bay, 617-267-5300, www.theoakroom.com. Unlike other Boston steakhouses, the Oak Room is traditional, elegant and just right for conversation. Appetizers: $10 – $17; entrees: $26 – $45; signature dish: Chateaubriand for 2 ($86).
Tip: The lobby bar serves the best martinis in town.
5. Mexican Un-madness. Casa Romero, 30 Gloucester St (side entrance), Back Bay, 617-536-4341, www.casaromero.com. Housed in the same brownstone as L’Espalier (#3), this is a much less expensive alternative. Dine on the quaint outside patio in the warm weather. Appetizers: $5 – $11; entrees: $14 – $24; signature dish: pork tenderloin marinated in oranges and smoked Chipotle peppers.
6. South End Serenity. Icarus, 3 Appleton St, South End, 617-426-1790, www.icarusrestaurant.com. The South End is home to the most lively and popular restaurants. This is the only one, however, where you can enjoy a calm, romantic evening; light jazz on Fri. Request a corner booth or table. Appetizers: $9 – $16; entrees: $26 – $34; signature dishes: grilled shrimp with mango, seared duck breast.
7. Storied Tradition Rejuvenated. Locke-Ober, 3 Winter Pl, Downtown, 617-542-1340, www.lockeober.com. This historic landmark (est 1875 and a favorite of Frank Sinatra and JFK) has been reinvigorated with an updated menu by new chef and co-owner Lydia Shire, but the glorious atmosphere remains. Avoid sitting near the entrance — insist upon a table as deep as possible in the stunning downstairs dining room. Appetizers: $13 – $24; entrees: $24 – $62; signature dishes: JFK lobster stew, oysters, baked lobster Savannah, Indian pudding.
8. Harbor Views. Meritage, Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, Downtown, 617-439-3995, www.meritagetherestaurant.com. This lovely hotel restaurant, with breathtaking harbor views, has an extensive wine list. Dishes are available in small or large portions and priced accordingly — small plates, $15 & large plates, $29. Signature dishes: red winebraised boneless short ribs, braised skate in carrot-ginger broth.
9. Cozy and Romantic. Troquet, 140 Boylston St, Theater District, 617-695-9463, www.troquetboston.com. Skip the sometimes noisy Wine Bar and head upstairs to the dining room where the tables are well-spaced. Food is paired with wine (served in 2- or 4-ounce glasses for sampling). Great for pre- or post-theater dining. Appetizers: $7 – $12; entrees: $19 – $34; signature dishes: hazelnut chevre tempura, veal cheeks with pureed parsnips.
10. North End Knockout. Rabia’s, 73 Salem S, North End, 617-227-6637, www.rabias.com. A cozy and intimate room with outstanding service. Beer and wine only (no liquor). The menu is typical Italian, but largely based on seafood. Appetizers: $7 – $12; entrees: $14 – $27; signature dish: Frutti di Mare al Forno (baked lobster meat, shrimp & scallops).
Brasserie Jo’s BarWe asked C. Paul Luongo, the unofficial mayor of Back Bay, to recommend a centrally located dining-bar that’s hip yet quiet. His pick: Brasserie Jo, 120 Huntington Ave in the Colonnade Hotel (617-425-3240, www.brasseriejo.com) across from the Prudential Center. Note: Chef Jean Joho also runs the Everest and Brasserie Jo in Chicago and the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Las Vegas.Alfonso De Lucia, maitre d’, oversees the bar and restaurant with a friendly yet firm hand. There are 18 stools at the long, French bar where you can chat with your neighbor, read a book or watch the Tour de France on TV.
House white wine is $6.50/glass. Signature beer: Hopla from Alsace-Lorraine. Free olives. Dine at the bar (light meals served until 1am) or in the 1940s style dining room which opens at 6:30am (Mon-Fri) and 7am (Sat & Sun). Great place before/after a concert at Symphony Hall, down the street.
Note: Lunchtime fashion shows, organized by Marilyn Riseman, held on Fridays when the Symphony gives afternoon concerts.
$Tip: Delicious, perfectly boiled eggs with mustard, kept in the kitchen, free for T/S readers who buy a drink. Just show your copy of the newsletter to the bartender.
Noise in Public Places!!
from the New York Times, 7/19/2012
Working or Playing Indoors, New Yorkers Face an Unabated Roar
The waitress’s lips were moving but nothing seemed to be coming out. Hundreds of voices swallowed her words as a D.J. pumped out a ticka ticka of dance beats. The happy hour-fueled din rose with it, amplified by tin ceilings and tiled walls.
“I’ve been getting migraines,” the waitress shouted on a recent Thursday night, leaning in to be heard. She said that she woke up with her ears buzzing, and that her doctor had recently prescribed seizure medicine: “It decreases the amount of headaches you get.”
The restaurant, Lavo in Midtown Manhattan, is not just loud but often dangerously so. On that night, the noise averaged 96 decibels over the course of an hour, as loud as a power mower, and a level to which, by government standards, workers should not be exposed for more than three and a half hours without protection for their hearing.
Lavo is far from alone. Across New York City, in restaurants and bars, but also in stores and gyms, loud noise has become a fact of life in the very places where people have traditionally sought respite from urban stress. The New York Times measured noise levels at 37 restaurants, bars, stores and gyms across the city and found levels that experts said bordered on dangerous at one-third of them.
At the Brooklyn Star in Williamsburg, the volume averaged 94 decibels over an hour and a half — as loud as an electric drill. At the Standard Hotel’s Biergarten in the meatpacking district, where workers can log 10-hour shifts, the noise level averaged 96 decibels. No music was playing: the noise was generated by hundreds of voices bouncing off the metal skeleton of the High Line.
At Beaumarchais, a nightclub-like brasserie on West 13th Street, the music averaged 99 decibels over 20 minutes and reached 102 in its loudest 5 minutes. “It definitely takes a toll,” a waiter said.
Workers at these places said the sound levels, which were recorded over periods as long as an hour and a half, were typical when they were working.
One spin class at a Crunch gym on the Upper West Side averaged 100 decibels over 40 minutes and hit 105 in its loudest 5. At a Crunch gym in Park Slope, Brooklyn, the noise level averaged 91 decibels. At the Fifth Avenue flagship store of Abercrombie & Fitch, which has designed many of its stores to resemble nightclubs, pulsating music hit 88 decibels, just shy of the limit at which workers are required to wear protection if exposed to that volume for eight hours.
By way of comparison, a C train hurtling downtown in Manhattan registered at 84 decibels; normal conversation is from 60 to 65 decibels.
Some research has shown that people drink more when music is loud; one study found that people chewed faster when tempos were sped up. Armed with this knowledge, some bars, retailers and restaurants are finely tuning sound systems, according to audio engineers and restaurant consultants.
“Think about places where they’re trying to get you in and out as quickly as possible,” said John Mayberry, an acoustical engineer in San Marino, Calif., who has railed against what he terms the “weaponization” of audio. “It’s real obvious what their intentions are.”
Some customers like the loudness. Younger people can withstand loud music longer, while older ones may run from it, helping proprietors maintain a youthful clientele and a fresh image.
But repeated exposure to loud noise often damages hearing and has been linked to higher levels of stress, hypertension and heart disease. Some restaurateurs said they were surprised that their decibel levels were too high, and a few said they were taking remedial measures.
Indeed, employees at noisy places are often the most affected, yet enforcement of existing noise regulations is almost nonexistent at places like these.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is responsible for workplace noise, generally investigates only when complaints are made; this appears to happen rarely, if ever, when it comes to restaurants, bars and gyms (the agency said it would take 138 years to inspect every workplace in the United States). In the 2011 fiscal year, all of the 14 noise violations issued by OSHA in New York City went to construction sites or factories; none went to restaurants, clubs or bars. The city has a noise code, but in the cases of restaurants and bars, it applies only to music and thumping that annoy the neighbors.
OSHA requires workers to wear hearing protection if they are exposed to 90-decibel noise for eight hours; at 85 decibels, employers must provide ear protection and conduct hearing tests.
Many hearing loss prevention experts say, however, that people should not be exposed to 100 decibels — the level at the spin class on the Upper West Side — for more than 15 minutes without hearing protection.
“We definitely consider those levels able to cause damage and likely to cause permanent damage with repeated exposure,” said Laura Kauth, an audiologist and president of the National Hearing Conservation Association. “They’re experiencing industrial level noise.”
But at all the aforementioned places, there was nary an earplug in sight.
Hearing experts say ears never get used to loud noise. “Your ears don’t get more tolerant,” said Dr. Gordon Hughes, director for clinical trials at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. “Your psyche gets more tolerant.”
The background noise is too loud, Dr. 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.
One waiter at Lavo, who, like several other workers, did not want his name published for fear of losing his job, said he knew his hearing could be in jeopardy. But, he reasoned, slight hearing loss was inevitable, since he had also played in a band. “When it happens, it happens,” he shrugged. “Hopefully by that time they’ll have better fixes for it.”
Rick Neitzel, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Risk Science Center, said full-time employees subjected to the volumes found at Lavo and Beaumarchais for a year or two could easily incur hearing loss. “Restaurants in the high 90s,” Dr. Neitzel said, “something really should be done.”
Tailoring the Clientele
At the Abercrombie flagship on a recent afternoon, a preteen girl plunged wide-eyed into the darkness as loud beats poured from dozens of speakers. Her mother and her grandmother trailed her. The grandmother, Nancy Hilem, 56, of Bucks County, Pa., said they had been in the shop 10 minutes but it felt as if it had been an hour because of the noise. Normally calm — she works at a funeral parlor — Ms. Hilem found herself jumpy.
“I can’t concentrate,” she said. “I can’t focus on what I want to buy because of the noise. I want to say to her, ‘Just find something, I’ll buy anything, let’s just get out!’ ”
According to Mr. Mayberry, that is exactly what Abercrombie wants: for loud music to keep out older people while teenagers venture in with their parents’ credit cards. “You can control your audience,” he said. “If you want young people in there, give them a specific type of sound.”
Abercrombie is but one example. Hollister, another Abercrombie brand, and H&M also go after the young: in their SoHo stores, volume levels stretched into the high 80s and often the low 90s.
Brian McKinley, vice president for marketing at DMX, the sensory branding company that creates Abercrombie’s playlists, said the goal was to create an “aspirational” environment. Throbbing music and dim lights make youngsters feel as if they are in a club and entice them to stay longer.
“There’s a lot of studies out there showing that the more time spent in the store correlates to more items purchased,” Mr. McKinley said. An Abercrombie spokesman said in a statement that the company’s “unique A&F in-store experience is something that our customer wants.”
Several Abercrombie employees admitted to frequent headaches. One said she hid out in the stock room to get away from the noise.
“We can’t do anything about it,” said a sales clerk, who said she often left work with a throbbing head and a throat scratched raw by shouting. “They want it to be like a club in here.”
The Abercrombie spokesman said, “We comply with all applicable laws with respect to maximum sound levels, and we conduct regular readings and assessments to ensure such compliance and that the sound does not have a negative impact on our associates.”
Wyatt Magnum, a music designer, slipped into the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square on a recent night and trotted down stairs to the restaurants. Tourists were digging into burgers, fajitas and fish and chips. A rock song was playing loudly — but not deafeningly so.
Mr. Magnum homed in on the tempo, and guessed it to be about 125 beats per minute — about the same as the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up.”
It is the perfect tempo, Mr. Magnum noted, for turning tables.
Mr. Magnum designs music programs for restaurants, bars and hotels, and often programs them to increase in tempo and volume as the day goes on, and to peak at cocktail hour, when the profit margins are largest. He counts luxury hotels and chain restaurants among his clients, though he did not want their names published, and sells an Encyclopedia of Beats-Per-Minute to help proprietors perfect tempos.
“It gets louder and faster and causes people to eat and leave,” he said.
He learned the art of molding crowd behavior as a D.J., changing songs to rotate people off dance floors and toward the bar. As more club owners enter the restaurant business, he said, they have imported their penchant for loud music — and their savvy about its effects.
“Are we manipulating you? Of course we are,” said Jon Taffer, a restaurant and night life consultant and the host of the reality show “Bar Rescue.”
“My job,” he said, “is to put my hand as deeply in your pocket as I can for as long as you like it. It’s a manipulative business.”
Not everyone buys it. Ken Friedman, majority owner of the Spotted Pig, the Breslin and the John Dory Oyster Bar, all busy Manhattan restaurants, said calculating beats per minute to speed up turnover sounded like “mumbo jumbo.” “I don’t think any great restaurants here do that,” he said.
But Mr. Magnum said the Hard Rock Cafe had the practice down to a science, ever since its founders realized that by playing loud, fast music, patrons talked less, consumed more and left quickly, a technique documented in the International Directory of Company Histories. While not denying this tactic, Hard Rock said its current approach was “vastly different,” with on-site video and guests helping to select the music.
There is research supporting Mr. Magnum’s theory. In 1985, a study by Fairfield University in Connecticut reported that people ate faster when background music was sped up, from 3.83 to 4.4 bites per minute. Nicolas Gueguen, a professor of behavioral sciences at the Université de Bretagne-Sud in France, reported in the October 2008 edition of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research that higher volumes led beer drinkers in a bar to imbibe more. When the bar’s music was 72 decibels, people ordered an average of 2.6 drinks and took 14.5 minutes to finish one. But when the volume was turned up to 88 decibels, customers ordered an average of 3.4 drinks and took 11.5 minutes to finish each one.
Curt Gathje, a lead editor at Zagat who has noticed New York restaurants’ getting markedly louder in the last decade, said, “There’s a new generation that instead of going to nightclubs they go to restaurants, and nightclubs have sort of bled into restaurants.”
“People don’t want to go to a place that seems dead,” he added. “Younger people feel they want some action.”
Recent changes in restaurant design have also increased sound levels. The trend of making restaurants look like brasseries and bars to resemble speakeasies has bred an abundance of hard surfaces that can reflect and amplify sound: ceramic tiles, concrete floors and tin ceilings. This despite the fact that one of the biggest customer complaints about restaurants, according to Zagat, is noise. Yet those who like noisy places said they were energizing and gave them a sense that they were where it’s at.
Maria Vasquez, 22, a design student who spends time at Lavo — home to the 96 decibel levels and migraine-afflicted waitress — said she found the cacophony there fun. Tiffany Trifilio, 26, a fashion analyst who frequents the Standard Hotel’s Biergarten, said the din made her feel part of the crowd. And Katherine Gold, 35, who often stays at home with her baby, reveled in Lavo’s noise one recent night. “I spend my days in my apartment and at Central Park,” she said. “I have enough quiet.”
Patrons of spin classes also said the din was part of the draw. The pounding music helped them forget they were exercising, they said, and made them feel they were reliving the club days of younger years.
Yet an hour in a noisy spin class followed by a few hours in a very loud bar could easily put people over their recommended daily noise dose. Especially in New York, where people drown out yowling sirens and screeching subways by cranking up MP3 players, ears often do not get the break they need.
Muffling the Din
Representatives and owners of several New York City establishments where sound topped 90 decibels said they had not known that they might have been breaching federal guidelines.
A spokeswoman for the Standard, where the Biergarten’s average decibel levels hovered in the mid-90s, said that the sound level varied by time of day, and that the owners did not know they might be breaking federal laws. “We will look into this independently,” she said in a statement, “and center our efforts on this matter and around our staff’s well-being, which is of utmost importance to us.”
Bill Reed, one of the owners of the Brooklyn Star, said he had no idea that the restaurant’s volume might be nearing risky levels. The restaurant would install insulating foam under the tables, he said, and possibly hang sound absorption boxes, too.
Bill Bonbrest, chief operating officer for the TAO Group, which owns Lavo, said no patron or employee had ever complained about the noise. Mr. Bonbrest said he did not know that Lavo might be violating a noise standard, and a few weeks later, he said the company had hired a professional to measure the sound. A hearing conservation program would be put in place, he said, which would include providing hearing protection and employee audio tests.
And Keith McNally, owner of several brasserielike restaurants including Schiller’s Liquor Bar on the Lower East Side, which registered 91 decibels, said that the D.J. never played for more than four hours a night, and that volume was kept down before 8:30 p.m. and after 3 a.m. He also said employees were allowed to wear earplugs.
After bringing in an engineer to measure sound, the owners of Catch, a restaurant in the meatpacking district, installed 1,800 square feet of sound panels, noticeably muffling the sound. In the fall, the chef and restaurateur Andrew Carmellini installed $10,000 worth of soundproofing at the Dutch in SoHo: his customers’ biggest complaint, he said in a Twitter post, had been noise. And Alex Stupak, the chef and owner of the Empellon taquerias in the East Village and the West Village, spent close to $20,000 soundproofing his restaurants after complaints about the din. “I learned a new word reading the reviews — cacophonous,” he said. “You couldn’t hear someone across the table.”
As for the loud spin classes, Donna Cyrus, senior vice president for programming at Crunch, said that individual instructors set the volume levels, and that each sound system had limits to ensure volumes were safe. Instructors, she added, were not required to wear earplugs.
‘A Lifetime Accumulation’
Up to 30 percent of workers exposed to noise levels of 90 decibels or more over their working lifetimes can expect hearing loss, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Few waiters or gym instructors are likely to stay in their jobs that long. But noise exposure is like sun exposure. Different people have different susceptibilities, and too much of it gradually wears on the body until, for some, irrevocable damage is done.
“It’s a lifetime accumulation that never goes away,” Dr. Hughes of the deafness institute said. “When you have damage, it’s permanent.”
Some workers admitted that they were pained by the volume. Others said they knew they were being subjected to dangerously loud levels but shrugged off the risk.
Reign Hudson, who teaches spin classes where the volume can top 100 decibels, said she was used to the loudness. Even after learning the levels were potentially dangerous to her hearing, she was unfazed. “It really irritates me if the music is too low,” she said. “Usually I’ll tell people if you don’t like loud music, don’t sit near the speaker.”
A bartender who has worked at Lavo for a year and a half said she thought her hearing was suffering a little, but she was staying in the job because the money was good. Jeffrey Sullivan, 34, a bartender at the Standard Hotel’s Biergarten, said he was surprised that the decibel levels there were so high. He has worked, however, in construction, played bass guitar in a band and surfed, all of which can be hard on the ears. He found the Standard, by contrast, soothing. “It’s nothing really piercing in here; it’s all loud voices,” he said. “It’s kind of gentle on the ears.”
Yet Nadene Grey, who used to tend bar at the Standard’s beer garden, said she had frequently been exhausted at the end of her shift. After learning of the noise measurements there, she said: “It really wears on you. I’m sure it’s the physical stress of not just making all those drinks, but the physical stress of the noise.”
Hearing loss from chronic exposure to noise starts with the loss of hearing high-frequency sounds, and the damage can go undetected for years, which is what happened to Ian Carson, a longtime bartender.
One weeknight, Mr. Carson assumed his regular spot behind the bar at Campagnola, an Italian restaurant that is an institution of sorts on the Upper East Side. A waiter came up, inhaled deeply and bellowed, “Bloody mary and a cosmopolitan.” Mr. Carson reflexively cupped his ear. “What?” he asked, tilting his head.
“Bloody mary and a cosmopolitan!” the waiter hollered back.
Mr. Carson, 66, began losing his hearing 20 years ago. Serving in the Army did not help. Neither did his stint working in discos, nor nearly three decades of working at Campagnola, which has a reputation for getting noisy, though on that particular night it was relatively quiet, averaging 82 decibels.
Sometimes Mr. Carson makes the wrong drinks. A lot of the time he just reads lips and guesses.
And when the background noise picks up, he said, “my ears are only good for hanging sunglasses.”
Emily S. Rueb and Josh Williams contributed reporting.
Previous Quiet Restaurant Meet-up Venues Have Included
2088 Mass. Ave
Cambridge, MA (map)
Pho Lemongrass, 239 Harvard St.
Food and camaraderie, and then a captioned movie at the Coolidge Corner Theater !
The Black Sheep Restaurant in Kendall Square
on Friday, February 20th at 6PM.
(Check out the menu here. )
900 Beacon Street
Check out the menu here!
Elephant Walk was a winner! Organizer Liz Olson requested preferential seating, and the restaurant did not disappoint. We were seated in a small semi-separate room in a corner for optimal acoustics. The food was amazing, and the staff was excellent.
S & S Restaurant
1334 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA
“The S&S Restaurant has been a Cambridge tradition since 1919. We offer everything from traditional deli, to innovative entrees, to award winning desserts. Saturday and Sunday Brunch and Take-Out are always special at the S&S. Or come and dine in with us for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We can also cater your next event. The S&S is located in historic Inman Square minutes from all of Cambridge, Downtown Boston, and Somerville.”
S & S was a nice spot for us: carpeted and filled with nooks that make for good acoustic management of noise. This venue is worth further examination for those of us who want to earmark a list of quiet restaurants! Definitely on the list!
Bankok City Restaurant, Mass Ave., Boston
One of the nice things about this restaurant is that there is a back room, set off from the rest of the space. We chose to sit in a corner, and the acoustics were quite good. So was the food and service!
Tu y Yo
Scheduling our outings before the crowds roll in seems to be the secret to success! We arrived at 6:30, when the noise level was perfect…..and stayed until 8:30 – by which time the place was hopping! Still, good company and a lovely wait staff who really went out of their way to provide good service and communication made this one a keeper. (And the food was very good!)
Rabia’s in The North End
Reviewed in several guides to Boston restaurants as a good pick for quiet dining, we set out for a 6:30 arrival and the ambience was calm and peaceful for the first course. But the food is so good, this restaurant doesn’t have empty tables for very long on a Friday night! By the time our pasta dinners arrived, there was much ambient noise. Perhaps we were enjoying our meal so much, that didn’t seem to matter! Schedule dinner for Rabia’s at an earlier hour, and this is a restaurant of choice.