Are noisy restaurants harmful to your health? (Marketplace)

[♪♪♪] [Makda] If you like
Italian, and who doesn’t, you’ll like Nico
Taverna in Windsor, Ontario. The Friday night dinner
rush is just getting started. With a menu that includes
wood-fired pizzas, mouth-watering pastas and a
very big portion of noise. The kind that makes
you have to shout, lip read, or just nod along
and pretend you can hear your friends. Were you guys able to
have a conversation? Just with Diana. -[Makda] Is it too much?
-Yeah, it was too loud. I was screaming to talk
to the rest of the table. [Makda] Even Nick, the owner,
thinks his restaurant is too loud. Margaritas for these guys. I can’t even hear
people on the phone. We have to go to a back room. [Makda] Let’s do a quick test,
just to see how noisy it is right now. Do you want to press the button? Sure. This one? [Makda] That’s a phone
app that measures decibels, how loud things are. Red means very loud. And the place is
still only half full. Does that kind of confirm
what you’re already hearing? Yeah, very loud. It’s definitely very loud. [Makda] Loud
enough, potentially, to cause harm. this right now is
a real problem. So I’ve got to do
something about it. [Makda] And many of you agree. We ask Marketplace viewers
across Canada about noisy restaurants. Nearly 1500 of you sound off. 68% say noise bothers them
more than even service or price. A whopping 91% say
restaurants are getting louder. Our viewers suggest there’s a
few in particular we should check out, including big chains. Places like Jack
Astor’s, East Side Marios, Boston Pizza, The Keg and Earls. So, we visit
locations from each one, twice, in three
different cities, on the same nights. Our testers use the same phone
app to measure noise levels, taking snapshots of the sound. We’ll name the
noisiest in just a bit. Back at Nico’s, a keyboard
player has joined the fray as more people arrive and together,
they’re putting the din in dinner. It’s 8 o’clock, and the owner
tells us this is peak time. We just saw a huge party go in. Let’s see how loud
it is right now. So out here. Now let’s go inside. Prolonged and regular exposure
to sound over 85 decibels is hazardous to your hearing. Putting restaurant
workers most at risk. It’s fast paced. And, as you can
guess, it’s pretty loud. [Makda] Chef Greg mans the grill
beneath a loud vent that sucks out the smoke. Communication in the
kitchen’s key for us. It’s very hard to
communicate through the sound. [Makda] Do you ever
worry about your hearing? I know, for instance, my father
works in a factory and they’re supposed to get
their hearing checked, yearly. One day, I will
get ’em checked and, yeah, it’s a big worry for me. [Makda] Imagine if you
already have hearing loss. One of the customers here
happens to be an audiologist. Dee Sehgal says his patients
dread noisy restaurants. It’s probably the number one
problem amongst people who are hearing impaired. [Makda] How does it
impact their life? They start to withdraw. So, when they get into
those complex environments, instead of having conversations
with their loved ones, friends or family,
they start to tune out. And when they start to tune out,
it can have a negative impact on memory, and on cognition. It’s a very difficult
situation for a lot of people. [Makda] It’s open
kitchens like this, and other modern design
trends, high ceilings, hard surfaces, that
keeps sound bouncing around, boosting noise levels in
restaurants all over Canada. Just ask Juan Carlos Bolomey. He’s getting calls for help
from lots of places like Nico Taverna. And today, it’s
getting a makeover. So basically, it’s as simple
as putting up some panels. This is an acoustic panel. [Makda] His company designs
these panels to dampen the noise. [Juan] Sound travels quite
quickly in a space and when it hits a surface that is highly
reflective, it’ll bounce off and continue to the next surface. In an untreated space, those
reflections kind of act as other people in the room
at different places. So, instead of having 4, now it
sounds like you probably have 10 or 15 people. [Makda] The plan is to install
about three dozen ceiling panels that retail for about $6,800. I always think things
aren’t going to work out. I really hope they do. ‘Cause last night,
you saw how it was. I have a headache still from
last night from how loud it was. And it’s probably
harmful for everybody. For my staff. For myself. [Makda] For the customers maybe? Maybe for the customers, too [Makda] Nick says it’s a fine
line between lively and loudly. People don’t wanna sit in a
restaurant that it feels like a morgue. They don’t want it
to be too quiet. But there’s a line you cross. And we were
crossing it quite often. [Makda] You crossed it
last night you think? Oh, for sure. [Makda] So what are the
consequences of crossing that line? Some have compared the
dangers of secondhand noise to secondhand smoke. So, I’m spending the next 24
hours tracking exactly how much noise I’m exposed to
using this little device, known as a dosimeter. It continuously measures the
noise around me and will come up with the average dose
I receive in a day. Picking up a coffee
on the way to work. Passing the endless
construction that is Toronto. Science says my daily average
exposure should be below 70 decibels to help avoid
problems like hearing loss and hypertension. It’s a relatively
quiet day at the office. As we begin to
assemble this story. We ask Marketplace viewers
across Canada about noisy restaurants. But when lunch
hour rolls around, the food court ups my
average reading by quite a bit. There’s a few more decibel
spikes through the afternoon, while in the edit suite. [TV audio] The Friday night
dinner rush is just getting started. And then things really pick up
during the after-work rush hour on the subway… ..and the street… ..and when shopping. I catch up with a colleague for
Friday night dinner and a big helping of decibels. Then finish the day with the
latest Hollywood ear-buster. So, how’d I do? Your average for the day is over
what we recommend as a limit to protect your hearing. [Makda] Rick Neitzel is a
scientist who focuses on noise exposure and how it
contributes to health problems. He works out of the
university of Michigan, in the city of Ann Arbor
where he says dealing with noise pollution should be a
public health priority. The World Health Organization
and the Environmental Protection Agency both recommend that we
keep everybody under a 24-hour average of 70. Yours was almost 78. That’s not uncommon. So, when we look in
urban areas like Toronto, like Ann Arbor here, we
typically see that about nine out of ten people are over that
level that we consider to be safe from hearing loss. So, as a result, you are a
sort of standard North American citizen here, where you’re
getting more noise than we really think you
should, and it’s coming, in your case, from just
day-to-day activities. This is not an exceptionally
noisy event or a really noisy job, it’s just your lifestyle. [Makda] It’s worth noting that
a small increase in decibels is actually a huge change in
the amount of noise and the potential for harm. My exposure for the day
averages 78 decibels. And to our ears, that sounds
almost twice as loud as the recommended 70 decibels. The highest levels
come when I’m out eating. You did a number
of noisy things, but the two periods that were
the loudest were going to lunch at the food court and going
out to dinner at a restaurant. They really overwhelmed all of
the other activities you did in terms of the noise you got. [Makda] The restaurant
there, we’re almost a hundred. Correct, and that’s really
the only time your day that you started to push that
hundred decibel limit. And, again, exceeding a hundred,
it’s not as though you’re going to have an
instantaneous hearing loss, but we do like to keep your
levels as low as possible, and that is not as
low as possible. [Makda] It’s not just
hearing loss that’s the worry. Neitzel says noise is
linked to all kinds of problems, once it goes above an
average of around 50 decibels. Should I be worried? So, if we’re talking
about 70 decibels here, below that we’re not
worried about hearing loss. But, when we talk about
these cardiovascular impacts, hypertension and heart attacks,
we’re talking more down in the 45 to 55 decibel range
as a 24 hour average. And, you spent a vast majority
of your day over that level. So, this is an unfortunate
thing that we’re recognizing, is that even if we
protect your hearing, we may not be protecting
your heart sufficiently. Hopefully it’s
reasonably comfortable. [Makda] Yep. Okay, great. And then, we’re just
going to fire this up. [Makda] To show the impact
noise can have on our hearts, Neitzel is testing
my blood pressure. 110 over 93. My heart rate is 89
beats per minute. So, this is your
baseline, pre-noise exposure. [Makda] Okay and I we just
need to bring up the noise? Now we’ll do the
noise, exactly right. [Makda] Now, he blasts an
audio track of big city sounds, at a level of 90 decibels. And after 30 seconds
takes another reading. So, here your blood pressure has
now increased to 120 over 95, and your pulse has
gone up from 89 to 96. [Makda] Wow. So, you’ve had a reaction to
that very brief stimulus or sound that you were exposed to. We’re not necessarily concerned
about a very short change, from a human health perspective. If this is
happening hours a day, though, that starts to
become much more concerning. [Makda] But I knew
that was coming, so why couldn’t I control it? So, your cognitive and your
central nervous system simply cannot screen out
noise, to some degree. Your heart rate and your blood
pressure are always going to respond, that’s simply
out of your control. [Makda] Over time, he says, that
could mean an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Jeez. Okay. I did not expect, I
have to tell you, I didn’t expect the
levels to change. I didn’t either, actually. Not by that much. So, that’s frankly
somewhat shocking. [♪♪♪] [Makda] This is
your Marketplace. We’re putting our ear to the
ground in noisy restaurants. Like Nico Taverna
in Windsor, Ontario. Last time we’re here, owner Nick
Politi is complaining about his own restaurant. Just the sound
bouncing off everything, hearing people’s voices
just cutting through. It’s a real annoying loudness. [Makda] Decibel readings confirm
the racket and so Nick orders up a restaurant makeover,
installing dozens of acoustic panels on the ceiling. [Nick] It’s made a world
of a difference. [Makda] Do you wanna test out
what the noise levels are like now?
-Sure. [Makda] So, remember
last time when it was busy, we were hitting
the mid-eighties. I like it. What does it say on the top? Moderate. Okay. [Makda] You’re in
the moderate levels. Low 70s, high 70s. What do you think about that? I think it’s great. I’m really happy. Like I said, it– it was
absolutely necessary that I did this. [Makda] Nick admits he’s been
losing customers and money. You thought the noise
was hurting your business? Oh yeah. I’ve heard from people
that they couldn’t come back. People, you know, some
people are hard of hearing, already had some issues
with hearing and that. Which there seems to be
quite a few people like that. I already know that
I lost some of them. Hey, how you’re doing. Nice to meet you.
What’s your name? -Mike.
-Mike? [Makda] But now he’s
hearing a different story. Were you guys able to
have an easy conversation? Absolutely. I have a hard time
hearing out of this ear, and I was fine. Awesome. So, it worked. My panels worked. [Makda] So, if Nico’s can do it,
what about other restaurants? Like the ones you tell us about? Nearly 1,500 Marketplace viewers
give us feedback on noisy places they’ve been and the one that
comes up the most is Earls. It alone gets about 10% of all
the complaints and twice as many as any other restaurant. When we check, all the big
chains have fairly similar noise levels, often loud, but not
hazardous in the short term, and Earls is loudest. We share our findings with Earls
and they say they appreciate the feedback but won’t
come on camera to talk. They tell us they do use sound
absorbing materials and play softer music in
their dining rooms. If you wanna keep an
ear out for yourself. What do you make of the results? So, the results were hovering
around 88 or 89 decibels. [Makda] There are consumer apps
that do a good job of measuring decibels. They’re all pretty darn
consistent and that gives me a lot of hope as a scientist,
because it means you can trust the results on your app when
you go to a restaurant or when you’re at work or doing
something else noisy, and you can screen and decide,
is this level potentially harmful for me or not. [♪♪♪] [Makda] Or just look for places
that are trying to turn up the quiet. [♪♪♪]

22 thoughts on “Are noisy restaurants harmful to your health? (Marketplace)

  1. Yes. Anything in public is essentially bad now. Danforth Shooter and Yonge street Van attack turned Toronto into a terror state which was safe since its birth up until recently. Be safe.

  2. The constant cell / smart 📱 noise & conversation by those on the devices forces diners to conversate at a louder volume. Also , piped in 🎶 is much more intrusive then it used to be. Restaurants want you in & out quickly.

  3. Maybe just me but I fail to see loud restaurants as a big enough issue for a video CBC. Maybe order takeaway if noise bothers you?

  4. The funny thing with the underground PATH in downtown Toronto is it’s loud and crowded to use in the weekday office times but during evenings and weekends it’s nice & quiet place to walk there lol

  5. Too LOUD is dfinitely not appreciable at all for me. I wouldn't put up with it. Some loudness for music bands, depending on location, is welcome, but I I definitely don't like my ears being BLASTED .

  6. 80db at low SPL is harmless. I record in a studio at 90-100db high SPL for 20 hours a weekend for 2 years and my hearing is fine in terms of the hearing test we all take. 80 decibels is the equivelant of living on the side of the Highway with your windows open.

  7. I've worked in the hospitality industry for almost 15 years and I have reduced hearing as a result. It's often difficult for me to hear people and I'm still in my 30s. So yeah, hearing loss can sneak up on you pretty easily.

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