Why are NYC restaurants louder than ever? An architectural detail is to blame.

Neat piece by Adam Platt in New York Magazine's Grub Street blog: restaurants in New York City are louder than ever because of the trend towards bigger and bouncier bars; but in part, because that trend means more exposed wooden slats, which effectively amplify and radiate sound. It's getting so bad, restaurant staff in many establishments are now increasingly at risk for hearing loss. (HT: @mikenizza)

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  1. I actually left a job a few years back for this reason. It was in an interesting old building from the '20s, but they hadn't made any effort towards sound dampening. When it got busy, the sound was a nightmare. Finally the headaches, stress, and exhaustion were just too much, even though the money was excellent.

  2. I definitely noticed the increase of interior noise in London in the late 90s due to similar points of design - lots of glass and varnished pine (and also interiors stripped down to concrete in some cases). None of the comfortable soft wood and carpet and wallpaper atmosphere that you get in more old-fashioned restaurants. In the latter sort of place you can be packed in with dozens of others in a small space and still hear what the person on the other side of the table is saying.

    I have a suspicion that there is also a difference in the frequencies of sound. I have a lot of trouble hearing when there is a lot of high frequency noise, to the point where putting my fingers in my ears means I can hear more, and that kicks in when I go (increasingly infrequently) to high-noise venues.

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