Southern California is full of loud environments. Just go out to dinner at a new or trendy restaurant to see for yourself. But did you know that loud restaurants are more than just bothersome; they are actually a public health threat?

Excessive noise can put your health and wellbeing in danger, according to the World Health Organization, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and even the U.S. Census Bureau. An estimated 30 million individuals in the United States are exposed to dangerously loud sounds on a regular basis.

How to Protect Yourself from Noise

Your hearing specialists at House Providence knows that not going out for dinner is not always an option. As the experts at identifying, diagnosing and treating all types of hearing loss, we have put together a list of tips to ensure your ears stay safe when you choose to go out.

  • Look up the decibel readings. More data is available than ever before about the decibel reading of your local restaurants. SoundPrint is just one of the crowdsource apps available that lets users provide data on how loud a certain place is. If you are sensitive to noise or have hearing loss, you can look this information up before ever leaving your house.
  • Go early. The earlier into the dinner rush you go, the fewer people there will be. This leads to a quieter and more enjoyable eating experience.
  • If you don’t like your table, ask to move. While this request cannot always be accommodated, it never hurts to ask. Tables located close to the kitchen or bar are typically the noisiest seats in the house. Some places will even allow you to request a particular table when you make a reservation.
  • Ask for the music to be turned down. If the music is bothering you, chances are it is bothering others.
  • Find your happy place. Have you found the perfect restaurant with the right combination of food, atmosphere and decibel level? If so, keep going. Letting them know what makes them your go-to spot will help ensure they are less likely to change.

Loud noises are everywhere. Knowing how to avoid them can help protect your hearing health.

What Is Noise Induced Hearing Loss?

Sound is measured in decibels (dB). Anything over 85 dB can lead to noise induced hearing loss. This is the second most common cause of hearing loss, behind only presbycusis, hearing loss related to normal aging. Noise induced hearing loss is also the most preventable type.

In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the loudest work environments were mining, manufacturing and construction. Even if you do not work in one of these professions, you are not out of the woods. Plenty of other environments can put your hearing health at risk.

The New York Times measured the noise levels at 37 restaurants, bars, stores and gyms across the city. They found the levels at one-third of them bordered on dangerous.

Why Are Restaurants So Loud?

Experts believe that the shift away from quiet, intimate dining toward loud, music-filled restaurants happened in the early 90s with chef Mario Batali. He began playing the music he and his staff listened to while cooking in the kitchen out in the dining room. Soon, others followed suit. Batali has confirmed he did this because he thinks loud restaurants convey a sense of vibrancy and energy.

In addition to pumping loud music into the dining room, restaurants are being designed in ways that amplify sound. They are popping up in non-traditional locations such as industrial spaces, churches and schools. Instead of carpets, table cloths and wall tapestries, newer restaurants feature minimalistic design with concrete walls, high ceilings and exposed ducts.