/ Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

Had enough of the festive din?

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As Christmas gets closer, it’s not just the festive cheer that’s on the rise – noise levels are ramped up too. Are you getting fed up with all that din? You’re certainly not alone. Johanna from Action on Hearing Loss joins us as a guest author to explain how to get your voice heard…

Earlier this year a survey carried out by Action on Hearing Loss found that three-quarters of us would go out more if we knew we’d actually get to have that cosy chat with our companions, and 91% of us never go back to a noisy venue.

Done with the din

In response, this summer we launched Speak Easy, a campaign asking restaurants, cafés and pubs to ‘take noise off the menu’.

But despite millions across the UK wanting to dine out in quieter venues, the industry has been slow to acknowledge that there’s a problem or to engage with the campaign.

There appears to be a perception that a loud restaurant is a successful restaurant – and as long as customers put up with the barrage of sound, the industry will continue to believe it’s getting it right.

The buzz is getting out of hand and we want to help you to send a clear message to the industry. So, we’ve put together some useful materials for diners across the UK to use over the festive season, and beyond.

So next time you’re out with your friends and family you can use discreet feedback cards to leave with your bill.

Or if you’re feeling like making more of a statement you can always use an attention-grabbing thumb prop – just like Nutritionist Jeanann (below) has done for a branch of Giraffe restaurants.


Jeanann awarded the restaurant a ‘thumbs down’ after a strained attempt to catch up with a friend:

‘With the coffee machines hissing and chairs scraping the floor, trying to hear my friend was like making sense of a badly tuned radio station. Concrete floors and high ceilings may create a modern look, but unfortunately it only adds more background noise.’

Getting voices heard

Repeat customers are important to restaurants, cafes and pubs, so we’re hoping that if enough of us tell the industry that the noise levels are turning us off, the industry will find it harder to ignore us.

And to make doubly sure that your voice is heard, if you do choose to give restaurants the ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ on social media – then make sure you tag the relevant venue, and put them in the public spotlight.

Have you recently spent the evening fuming and fed up at a Christmas pub lunch? Or have you been pleasantly surprised on a recent night out? Which restaurants get a ‘thumbs down’ from you?

This is a guest contribution by Johanna Taylor from Action on Hearing Loss. All views are Johanna’s own and not necessarily those shared by Which?.


While I’d want to see the demo for the survey responders I agree totally that when we go out we prefer quiet places. Eating out can be noisy, but some background is useful, since otherwise when the troughs are filled the audible accompaniment can be less than decorous.

But overall I was thinking how much less ‘artificial’ noise there is these days. Those whose umbilical cords to loud music have never been severed now seem content to be insulated from reality through their ear buds and iPods; certainly, it’s probably made travel on public transport that bit quieter.


When I was young I did not enjoy noisy parties. One reason was that I could not make out what others were saying. When I have attended functions with a meal followed by a disco I head for a quiet corner and I’m rarely alone. Nowadays I notice that loud music sounds more like noise than music and suspect that this is why older people have a reputation for disliking loud music. Otherwise, my hearing seems fine. Maybe by having avoided loud music it might stay that way.


I have slight hearing loss and find it near impossible to make out conversations in busy restaurants/bars. A few years back, I had ‘hearing therapy’ at my local ENT. Their advice was to try to find tables where the lighting is good and you can sit in a corner with your back to the wall. That helps, as does sitting (or standing, if in a bar/pub) with your back to the noise.


That’s not entirely the best advice, in fact Mel; sitting close to a wall is where bass frequencies have the greatest energy, so the hearing loss can be aggravated, especially in corners. Facing away from the sound is excellent advice.

Design has a lot to do with this, of course. The current penchant for hard surfaces all meeting at 90o also amplifies and ‘muddies’ the sound. Curved surfaces absorb it, as do soft furnishings and strategically placed shelves and planks .


Ah! That’ll be why I still can’t hear, then. 😩 Thanks, Ian.


There must be many perplexing conversations at noisy parties where, to appear to participate, people will utter “yes”, “no”, “oh really” and nod or shake their heads despite not having heard what was being said. Why are we obsessed with playing rubbish music (is it really?) at any opportunity? It would at least be tolerable if it were classical (proper music) then there would be something worth listening too when the inaudible conversation finally stuttered to an end.


Ha – I have many of those, @malcolm-r. For me, it doesn’t matter what the music genre is. If a place is really busy, it all gets mixed up into general ‘din’.


@mtrain, Pardon? 🙂 Is this why so many people have smart phones with ears plugged in? Are they actually having intelligible conversations with their companion? Presumably a group will be on a conference call?