Bass! How low can you go?

“This is the loudest restaurant I’ve ever reviewed in D.C.,” he tells us as we look over the menu. “Here, it was 100 decibels at the bar during happy hour, and not much better in the center of the dining room.” […] The sound levels blow away a normal, 60-decibel conversation. […] The decibel scale (dB) is a scientific measure of sound intensity. To human ears a 10dB difference is about twice as loud, but the sound intensity is 10 times greater. […]

Our brains have a tough time sorting through the cacophony in crowded dining rooms, which can influence our behavior. Multiple studies show that prolonged exposure to noise has physical effects such as increased anxiety and fatigue. Taken together, these effects can make the restaurant experience more taxing than relaxing for patrons, and they can leave staff drained from a long day straining to offer service while risking permanent hearing damage. […]

Alcohol blunts our hearing — especially at lower frequencies. This means when I reach the legal limit to drive, my brain will turn down the volume of most sounds I’m hearing in a restaurant. This effect may give me some relief from the music, but it will also drown out voices. It explains why intoxicated individuals talk louder: They don’t hear themselves as well as they normally do and speak up to compensate. […]

Strangely, noise also seems to drive more alcohol consumption. French researchers discovered this effect by raising music levels in bars by about 15 decibels and recording the number of drinks served. […]

Sorting through noise in restaurant dining rooms is particularly taxing to our brains, studies have shown. Working memory is under high demand when we need to switch our attention from one voice to another in a sea of voices. […]

At 95 decibels, scientists observe people and rodents eat less and consume food faster. Wang suggests that this fact may be understood by restaurant managers trying to turn their tables.

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }