Kindred Soul

I have an ally in my war against loud music in restaurants and other commercial venues.  Saith Nigel Rodgers at the DM :

The introduction of the smoking ban enabled us to shop, eat and drink in a smoke-free environment, so why does uncontrollable, inescapable background music linger in these spaces like cigarette smoke once did?

Unwanted ‘muzac’ (NB. ‘Muzak’ with a ‘k’ is a tradename these days) easily becomes a noise, and noise is the forgotten pollutant. Sometimes you can’t hear yourself think, let alone hear the person you’re with.

You can’t read, you can’t listen to your music on headphones. No, you’re trapped, beholden to a dreadful cacophony.

I wrote about this ghastly nonsense back in 2018, and if anything, I’ve become less tolerant in the intervening years.  Not long ago I ordered my food in a place which played loud music, and then about ten minutes later I got up and left, apologizing to the restaurant manager on my way out, saying that my tinnitus was causing me extreme pain and I would not be able to enjoy the meal because of the noise.  I went back a couple nights later, walked in, and walked straight back out again, motioning to the manager about the loud music.  I never went back.

The hell with them, and all the other places.  Nigel, old buddy, I’m right there with you.


  1. I complain regularly. It does no good.

    What say you of the loud horrible music shrieked at one while “on hold” on the telephone? I’ve severed relations with a number of businesses who do this and occasionally been able to tell them why. I couldn’t tell if they were shocked, sympathetic or thought I was just plain crazy.

    1. Fred,
      When they put me on hold, I put my phone on speaker phone. When they pick up, then I pick up. I read or something while on hold. I just have to remember that I’m on the phone. I’ve forgotten that I called a company and they disconnect and the process starts up again.


      1. I do that if I must, but 90% of my calls are business calls made while I’m sitting at my desk trying to work.

        The ‘music’ is distracting because it’s loud, usually repeats of stuff I have heard a thousand tomes, often bad and offensive.

        Why big businesses would choose to have rappers shouting at customers and business associates about their hoes and bitches is beyond me.

  2. Same here. My ears ring constantly due to guns, motorcycles, drag racing, and working for over 30 years in an industrial environment. I hate going out to restaurants with large groups. With the constant din of loud music, other people talking, general noise, and my ears ringing, I cannot hear nor understand the conversation of those around me. I sit and nod my head occasionally if I see their lips moving, but for the most part I eat my meal in complete isolation, unable to participate in the conversation.

    My wife constantly nags me to get hearing aids, but really, without the background noise I can hear decently. I just get selective about what I listen to.

    1. Me too, but I did get the hearing aids and they do help quite a lot.

      Plus, all of a sudden, I liked music again.

      1. If I get hearing aids then I have to listen to people’s inane small talk.

        My grandfather had two hearing aids and a gabby sister in law. When she got to jaw jacking, he’d discreetly reach up and turn his hearing aids down. Then he’d occasionally nod, say things like wow, you don’t say, that’s too bad etc based on my great-aunt’s body language. When called for dinner, my great Aunt would get up and go to the table. We’d have to tap Pop and tell him dinner was ready. He’d turn up his hearing aids and come eat. If I ever get hearing aids I’m going to emulate Pop.


  3. I admit I’ll veto a restaurant based on how noisy it is. In the restaurants or waiting rooms with noisy TV’s, I’ve been known to find the remote or the buttons on the set* and turn it down myself.

    *Is it still called a “TV set” or do I betray my age?

  4. There’s a reason those Bose noise cancelling headphones cost so much….you’ll pay it for a little escape time.

    1. No, those Bose noise cancelling headphones cost so much because of their philosophy: “Better sound through marketing.”

  5. I’ve heard from people in the business that the loud nature of restaurants is deliberate and desired by designers. They construct the places with bad acoustics on purpose because they want the ambience to be that way. The only way to stop it is to not eat there. Problem is, the practice is so ubiquitous and pervasive that you end up eating at home all the time.

    1. Not a problem at all to eat at home. Less chance for food-borne illnesses, less expensive plus the added bonus of not having to be around people, except the ones of your own choosing.

  6. Huh…glad to see I’m not the only one. There are lots of places I won’t go because of the noise floor/music blaring. Heck, I’ve even given up on going to hockey & baseball games because of the music that gets blasted in the arena every time there’s a stoppage in play.

  7. Completely agree. I tend to turn to my phone for entertainment while eating in loud restaurants.

    If someone is sitting one person over, I tend to not be able to hear them and it’s disappointing.


  8. I agree about not being able to stand resturant noise, especially the music but also the acoustics, hard walls, floors and ceilings have been the chosen design for years and years. Screw’em, we eat at home, I enjoy cooking and we purchase good, high quality food, for about $25 we can have our wine and scotch, two nice steaks and good vegetables.

  9. Not only the muzak – but the hard floors, wall and ceilings that reflect and magnify all the other noises in a modern restaurant. The reason is to keep the reason is to limit conversation, keep the energy level high, and encourage the patrons to shovel their food in and get the hell out. Some restaurants even pipe ambient noise through the sound system. I can think of several trendy bistros where the sound is almost painful. We seldom eat there.

    This modern trend destroys the dining experience. The wifey and I treasure the few old style restaurants left where you can actually relax, enjoy your companions, the conversations and the meal in a genteel manner. We patronize those restaurants, and tip and compliment well.

  10. Not a problem at all to eat at home. Less chance for food-borne illnesses, less expensive plus the added bonus of not having to be around people, except the ones of your own choosing.

  11. The kicker here is that ‘environmental tobacco smoke’ is probably not actually hurting anyone. The study used to ban it admitted that the smokiest environmental imaginable, if stayed in all day, probably amounted to smoking two-fifths of a cigarette. Whereas loud music does do measurable damage to hearing. So, in the name of making smokers miserable, they have banned something annoying but likely harmless, and failed to ban something annoying and measurably harmful.

    1. Tobacco contains Nicotine, the most addictive substance known to mankind. Its a F^^nking drug! Why should I have to breathe that shit to eat a meal, or do anything else in public? I don’t need, or want, to share someone’s addiction.

      1. Nope. Nicotine may be the most common, but it’s number 5 on the addiction scale.

        The 5 Most Addictive Substances On Earth

        Addiction of any kind is likely to wreak havoc on an individual’s life, but there are various substances that have qualities that make them especially hard to beat.

        5. Nicotine

        Nicotine, the highly addictive substance found in tobacco products, is the most common addiction in America. More than two-thirds of Americans who tried cigarettes or chewing tobacco report being dependent at some point during their lifetime.

        4. Barbiturates (“Downers”)

        These substances are typically used to treat anxiety and induce sleep. Popular street names for Barbiturates include Blue Bullets, Gorillas, Nembies, Bars, and Pink Ladies. At low doses, these drugs can produce euphoria; at higher doses an overdose due to suppressed breathing can result.

        3. Cocaine

        An estimated 14-20 million people worldwide use Cocaine, resulting in a billion-dollar industry. Cocaine reacts with the brain’s level of dopamine, preventing neurons from turning the “feel good” signal off. This results in abnormal activation of the brain’s reward pathways. An estimated 21% of people who try Cocaine will become addicted at some point in their lifetime.

        2. Alcohol

        Addiction to beer, wine, or liquor can have a very negative effect on the body and mind that is often irreversible. Studies have shown that alcohol increases the level of dopamine in the brain’s reward system by as much as 360%. This legalized substance has a death rate of over 3 million per year.

        1. Heroin

        Heroin takes the number 1 spot as the most addictive substance on the planet. On Nutt’s addiction scale, it ranked a 2.5 out of a maximum score of 3. This potent Opiate has an alarming rate of addiction, with 1 in 4 individuals who try Heroin becoming addicted. What makes this drug particularly dangerous is that the dose that can cause death is only 5 times greater than the dose required for a high. Additionally, Heroin has an extremely high risk of death from a relapse.

  12. I totally agree, too many public places run audio that’s too loud to hold a normal conversation in . When youv’e compounded that with moderate hearing loss, tracking a conversation and pulling dialog from background noise becomes a hellish exercise.

    I came across an article a few years back that talked about the increasingly bad acoustics in eating spaces. They laid the blame at the feet of the materials and designs that currently signal “luxury” and trendiness, which for the last couple of decades have been hard and acousto-reflective rather than soft and absorbent.

    Not nearly enough attention is paid to this by designers or operators. The level of background music ought to present something of a masking buffer that covers kitchen noises and conversations from other tables, while being low enough not to disrupt the local table. This will change through the day, and varies with the crowd and the noise they generate. There is as much to audio design as their is to lighting design, and not enough expertise to go around, or recognition of the necessity of it.

  13. One piece of good news is that I did succeed in curbing the monster once.

    I’ve been a gym member for 2 1/2 years and spent the first 2 regularly telling the gym staff and owner that the music was too loud and offensive. I was told it was a common complaint but they could do nothing because of ‘head office’ rules. It was bearable so I suffered along with it because otherwise, it’s a great gym, a 6 minute walk from my home.

    I recently extended my membership for another year and got a survey request email from head office. I gave many positives but complained bitterly about the noise.

    About 2 weeks later the gym music became more civilized in content and volume. I thanked the owner when I next saw him and he suggested head office had lots of similar complaints and policies were changing.

    If anyone is interested it’s a franchise operation out of the USA (I think) called ‘AnyTime Fitness’.

  14. I wonder if the unpleasant music in restaurants is to discourage lingering over a meal. This results in tables being “flipped” faster and more income for the restaurant.


  15. I used to love to eat out, especially when in the 80’s and 90’s when I traveled a lot. Great steakhouses seemed to know that keeping noise below conversation-disturbing levels was part of the experience you paid a premium for.

    Not any more. My wife and I went to a big name steakhouse in Northern Virginia last week and between the vapid hipster noise playing on the overhead and the festival-level cacophony of the dining room. (everyone talking as if they were giving a speech), we couldn’t carry on a conversation. On top of that, it was 66 degrees at the table. We left after one drink and i was only just able to tell the hostess why, over the din. FFS, are they hanging meat in the dining room now in addition to holding hip hop concerts on the 1MC?

    I was in a pub in Wales a few years ago, mid afternoon, enjoying a pint and a quiet moment of solitude. A couple of early 30s chaps came in, already in full throat, and demanded to know where the tv was. The publican, in a purposeful and quiet voice, answered, “in my living room, where it belongs.”

  16. Kim, as you can see, there are a lot of folks that are right there with you.

    My wife and I have on many occasions asked the restaurant management to “please, turn it down.”, and in most cases, they have gladly complied.

    There is one thing I have learned since I have gotten older and my hearing has suffered. And that is, if you go into a restaurant and there is a large table with four or more middle-age women seated there, you want to be as far as possible from that table. They will be LOUD!

    1. There is always one in the group that laughs at the volume level of a 747 taking off.

  17. I’ve got a sorta similar complaint about my local discount supermarket. They used to have some sort of oldies (not current music) feed from corporate. (Any station or service playing current music is paying top prices for that, but the older stuff is much cheaper, I’m told.)

    Well, they changed the format, and it is jarring to hear. I used to spend time searching the shelves for goodies, but now I rush through there so fast I overlook things I went in to buy. I normally would end up with a shopping cart full, but now I’m lucky to fill a carry basket, and end up going to one or more other stores to get what I need the next day. The clientele is not youngsters, and I observed that most people are also moving faster than before. Seems corporate has had an attack of the dumbs.

  18. I can barely tolerate any form of today’s “society”.
    It has become a gross, overbearing ogre for the most part and my wife and I have mostly left it behind and are better off because of it. Some might think this comes from old age (we’re both 67) but I’ve shunned society all of my life. Small gatherings are AOK with me but the places that are being discussed here are not worth the effort.

    1. Ghost,
      Same here. I grew up in a neighborhood with sidewalks but bought a house on a street with no sidewalks. There’s a pond at the end of the street. The major traffic we get is Saturday mornings when guys head down wit their bass boats, fish in the morning and are gone around noontime.

      I like a variety of restaurants around. We tend to go to an old tavern that has good cocktails, good hamburgers and specials, and a nice liquor selection. There’s some good seafood places in the area. We try to pick off nights to go.

      If it’s too loud, I’m out of there and seldom return.

      Some of my wife’s friends are in the medical field so when we get together with them we’re sure to discuss graphic events in our careers. That usually makes neighboring tables lose their appetite. Maybe sometime we’ll start a pool on how long it takes to drive people a way, winner gets their meal paid for by the others.


  19. I have read that fast food joints have molded hard seats and orange, red and yellows to get the customers (not diners or patrons, for sure!) to bolt their food and run.

    1. Probably incorrect. The hard plastic is such in order to be easy and very quick to clean. Many of the patrons there tend to be pretty messy (and what’d you expect without cuttlery and plates anyway) so rapid cleaning is essential, especially during rush hour.

      That it’s so uncomfortable customers hurry and leave quickly is a possibly desirable side effect, but not the primary reason. Primary reason is being able to clean things quickly by largely untrained staff…

  20. Probably incorrect. The hard plastic is such in order to be easy and very quick to clean. Many of the patrons there tend to be pretty messy (and what’d you expect without cuttlery and plates anyway) so rapid cleaning is essential, especially during rush hour.

    That it’s so uncomfortable customers hurry and leave quickly is a possibly desirable side effect, but not the primary reason. Primary reason is being able to clean things quickly by largely untrained staff…

  21. I’m with you. I suffer from pretty severe social anxiety (the DSM 5 condition…) and am extremely sensitive to sensory overstimulation, especially noise and flashing lights.

    I’ve had anxiety attacks in supermarkets because of the background music (WTH do you need a radio station blaring away in the supermarket?), having to abandon my groceries and get the hell out or collapse in a seizure.

    Haven’t seen the inside of a restaurant since 2018, and don’t really miss the experience.
    Not much fun going to one alone and really nobody to go to one with.
    And now, with a highly restrictive diet, even takeout or delivery isn’t an option as I can’t really eat anything on any restaurant menu…

Comments are closed.