Bars May Soon Finally Have to Turn the Damn Music Down

Illustration for article titled Bars May Soon Finally Have to Turn the Damn Music Down

After years of being accused of being a prematurely elderly misanthrope who hates fun and wouldn't dream of rocking/rolling all night and partying ev-er-y day, your endless complaining about the volume of the inside of bars has finally been vindicated. Turns out, it is much too noisy in bars — so noisy, in fact, that wait staff in many restaurants should technically be wearing safety earphones in order to preserve their hearing. But restaurants aren't the only establishments unwittingly dooming their employees to years of asking "What?" over and over again until they get too embarrassed to keep asking and just pretend they heard what the person was saying.


The New York Times, in an extremely New York Times-y move, measured the sound levels at several Manhattan bars, restaurants, and gyms and found that in many of the places, the sound levels inside rivaled standing right next to a lawn mower, or right next to the subway as it pulls up to the platform, or lovingly nestling your ear near a hand drill. At one spinning class, the Pump You UP motivational music's volume approached jet engine. Decibel levels in stores like Abercrombie and Hollister are turned way up to assure that teenagers' parents wait outside gingerly rubbing their temples on a mall bench while their teen buys strategically ripped pre-worn out jeans and tee shirts containing tired vaguely sexual slogans with their parents' credit card. Loud music, although harmful in large doses, makes patrons think they're somewhere cool, somewhere happening, somewhere for The Youths.

But overpriced distressed baby tees aren't the only thing that's Barely Legal here — the Times points out that federal workplace safety standards require that employers who expose their employees to levels of sound like the sort of "all the world's a gay nightclub" fare that's de rigueur now should actually be providing ear protection to their employees. In some cases, the employer is responsible for providing hearing tests to workers with long-term exposure to the high volume environment. Otherwise, waitresses, personal trainers, and retail employees are spending significant portions of their workday exposed to the sonic equivalent of loud industrial noise, which could result in long term hearing loss. Actually, with dubstep being as popular with the kids as it is now, it's quite possible that the music inside these youth-oriented establishments is almost indistinguishable from the sound of an industrial implement being thrown in a blender.


For some, intervention may have come too late. Lifetime hearing damage is cumulative; there's nothing you can do to undo the harm you've already done. Just ask my fiance who about a decade ago was in a very, very loud band and spent most of the time he wasn't playing shows at shows of other very loud bands or in very loud bars yelling loudly about very loud bands. But if you do ask him, speak slightly more loudly than you'd normally speak, and enunciate. Because his hearing is shot.

But rather than just turning their palms skyward and shrugging as though nothing can be done, some employers are taking the knowledge that shit's just too loud seriously, installing noise-absorbing foam under tables, panels on the walls, and not allowing anyone named "Brenda" or "Chuck" in. Brendas and Chucks have notoriously loud voices.

Meanwhile, employees are popping Exedrin, grinning, and baring it. What else can you do in this economy? Get another job? Ha.


Image via Dmitriy Shironosov/Shutterstock

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Ugh, thank goodness, I hated working as a cocktail waitress for how loud the music was (and because sexual harassment from customers sucks). I prefer the volume to be low enough that I can hear everyone at the table instead of having to pretend I'm not missing 50% of the conversation.