restaurant dilemma

How to solve the restaurant dilemma

A 2018 Zagat survey found that noise is the #1 complaint of diners. The combination of noisy backgrounds and multiple speakers can make it hard to lock onto, hear, and actively participate in conversations. It’s called “the restaurant dilemma” and it can keep you from enjoying good times with family and friends. Read more details about the study results below. And for helpful tips on the dining dilemma, check out this colorful infographic.

loudest restaurants

How challenging are the listening situations in popular restaurants across the US? Oticon commissioned a survey of five top-rated restaurants in each of ten markets — Austin, Detroit, Chicago, Denver, Nashville, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, St. Louis and Washington, DC. Teams, equipped with a Sound Level Meter app, conducted decibel readings at the restaurants during peak Saturday evening dining times, approximately 7:00 – 8:00PM. Over the one-hour timeframe, the teams captured decibel readings every ten minutes. Times from each of the 50 restaurants were then sent for tabulation and analysis. Here is what we found:
View infographic

taking food order

Not surprisingly, the survey results showed that the noise levels at the 50 in-demand restaurants surveyed were on average at or above the 80-decibel range. That’s about the noise level of alarm clock or heavy traffic on a busy roadway. To put the decibel readings in context: Hearing care professionals advise that over time, exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels can contribute to hearing loss.

The local market teams found that a combination of factors contributed to the high noise levels recorded in the survey, including décor, size, seating configuration, music and other entertainment, and kitchen design and food preparation areas. 

modern resraurant

When it came to distracting background noise, the teams observed few differences in noise levels between restaurants that offered relaxed, casual dining and those with a more formal setting. In some restaurants, television monitors positioned throughout the dining area delivered a one-two punch to diners’ ears with loud on-air sports commentary and on-site fan cheers. In trendy “industrial chic” restaurants, the steel, granite, tile and other hard surfaces amplified sound, raising readings to nearly 85 decibels and creating uncomfortably high sound reverberation.


Your solution to the restaurant dilemma doesn’t have to mean staying home and missing opportunities for social engagement with friends and family. The newest BrainHearing™ technology available in Oticon Opn hearing aids provides a better option. Opn overcomes a challenge that even the most advanced solutions of today can’t solve – the ability to handle noisy environments with multiple speakers. 

Learn more about Opn & sign up for a risk-free trial 
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For more information information about solving the restaurant dilemma, check out these tips.


  • Get support

    Learn how to clean your hearing aid, change your batteries, replace domes and more

  • Check your hearing

    Think that you may have hearing loss?  Take the first step and complete this short evaluation.

  • Ringing in your ears?

    What is tinnitus, why do some people get it, and what can be done to relieve symptoms?

  • Find a professional

    A hearing care professional can check your hearing and determine a treatment that is right for you.