It’s Not About the Money

We try to dine out before 6 pm, and it’s about our hearing, not the early bird specials.

by David Mokotoff, M.D.

My wife and I dined last Saturday evening at a new upscale restaurant. A reservation at 6:15 pm should have been safe. Alas, some diners brought their small children, but they were not the problem. The place was packed. The ambient noise was high and in the danger zone for one’s hearing. I turned on my iPhone SoundPrint app, and it registered 86 decibels. Anything above 70 is thought to be damaging. Ouch!

We had trouble hearing each other, and although we are both past 70, neither needs hearing aids. And yes, we have been tested. But after last night, I might go again. The meal was great and the service was good. However, the noise level ruined what should have been a romantic atmosphere. And with the prices charged, this is unacceptable, but sadly increasingly common.

There are multiple reasons for this. We have on occasion asked wait staff to turn down the music. For anyone under 45 with normal hearing, we must appear to be typical grumpy old people. Super high pricing should have blunted the trend, but millennials also have a lot of money to spend. The only place we can have dining peace, besides our home, is high-end steak houses. You know these places, or perhaps you don’t. How many of us can afford to order an $85 New York Strip steak (a la carte, mind you) to have a quiet atmosphere?

“Do you want earplugs with that burger?” So starts the article “It’s a Noisy Planet,” produced by the US government’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). They also offer this sound (pun intended) advice, “If you have to raise your voice to be heard by the people at your table, it’s probably too loud.” HHS gives three suggestions:

  • Go early before the restaurant gets crowded and busy.
  • Sit off to the side or away from overhead speakers or game centers. (And I would add the bar and hostess stands.)
  • Ask the manager to turn down the volume if the music or television is too loud.

Early bird specials are fine, but I refuse eating dinner at 4:30 to escape the noise. I may be getting old, but I’m not that old. Yet.

David Mokotoff, M.D. is 72-years old, and a retired cardiologist. He is passionate about writing, reading, culture, health, politics, and food. Dr. Mokotoff regularly writes for Medium Magazine. Follow him, and read more of his articles, or subscribe to receive his articles at