/ Food & Drink, Health, Travel & Leisure

Are you fed up with noisy cafés, pubs and restaurants?


Action on Hearing Loss members are fed up with noisy cafés, pubs and restaurants – but it’s not just people with hearing loss who want quieter public places. Do you find dining out too loud to enjoy yourself?

Whether you’re out for after-work drinks with colleagues at the local pub, a family meal at a restaurant or a quick coffee with friends in a cosy café, we tend to think of going out for food or a drink as a social activity.

Part of what attracts many of us to a particular venue is its atmosphere or ‘buzz’ – but how much is too much?

Public places should be quieter

At Action on Hearing Loss, our members told us in a recent survey that they wanted us to focus on making cafés, pubs and restaurants more accessible, as they are often no-go areas for people with hearing loss.

We think this is a problem that affects lots of people, with or without hearing loss. And it’s something that seems to be backed up by many Which? Convo community members. Sharon, for instance, recently commented on how she’s fed up with piped music ruining her evening:

Muzak in public places is a modern scourge, but worst of all is muzak in restaurants, pubs and cafes. When you go for a meal, you’re there for an hour or so to enjoy the food and chat to your companions.

The widespread use of background music and the fashion for open-plan designs and hard furnishings are just two factors which can help create a high level of background noise in these spaces.

As conversations become louder and louder, fighting to overcome the existing level of noise can create quite a stressful environment – whether you have hearing loss or not. I know I find it uncomfortable to sit in these places too long, struggling to hear my friends and family and needing to shout to make myself heard.

Do you think eating out is too noisy?

Have you ever moved on to a new pub because it was too loud to hold a conversation? Or thought twice about going back to a restaurant because of the noisy dining experience? I know I have!

We would love to hear about your dining experiences. Is ease of conversation something you consider when choosing where to go out? And if you think this is as big a problem as we do, what do you think cafés, pubs and restaurants should be doing differently to get you back through the door?

We have also put together a short survey to try to understand what factors influence where people decide to go out, and what you think are the biggest problems in these venues. We can’t wait to hear from you as we begin to plan our new campaign!

This is a guest contribution by Luke Dixon of Action on Hearing Loss. All opinions are Luke’s own, not necessarily those of Which?


I dont know if it has changed now but in the days when my wife was not housebound and we lived in a big city we went out for meals to Indian /Chinese restaurants . These restaurants played soft/subtle cultural music in the background if this is still the case then it shows a cultural difference and change in society in the UK influenced by the media who now seems to control society here more and more and think loud music “sells ” better as in supermarkets .

I agree with you about

” … society in the UK influenced by the media who now seems to control society here more and more ..”

insomuch as it is the controllers of those controlling media outlets which are the challenge.
The Murdochs.
The Russian oligarchs
Lord Rothermere (Using his non-dom status to avoid paying tax on his millions.)

This is where one is so confident in the impartiality of Which?, reliant only on its fees from members, and independent of ‘bungs’ from selling indulgences and product endorsements.

Do you know what I know Josef ,you hint it ,that a certain group of people own 96 % of the World media?.

Middle of the road music as background is fine although I have no love for it all but noise is something I can well do without. I am not the type of person howerer who would ask for music to be lowered, I am much more likely to vote with my feet
Music I cannot talk above in a normal voice I cannot have and never could have had, now I simple have not the breath to start to half shout

Like that last paragraph Dee my voice is still okay but not other parts of my body.

Your ”spirit” is in fine fettle tho’

My local branch of H.S.B.C. started playing music much to my annoyance. On writing to them the reply was, although not in so many words, hard luck we are not interested and going on playing it and they also play it in other branches as well, most annoying.
About three years ago I had the same problem in Ikea’s Bristol branch and wrote to them. They sent me some vouchers for their café but told me they were not going to stop it. I have never used the vouchers and not returned since.
luckily living near a small town I do not have too much problem with this, the supermarkets I use, Waitrose and Lidl do not play music neither does my local Holland and Barrett. The café where we stop for lunch very often does but even when just my wife and I are in there you hardly hear the music but I do not wish to be bombarded with music when out so why should we.

Sally says:
9 April 2016

I see that Action on Hearing Loss is about to launch a campaign on noisy restaurants and how they affect your dining experience. They are keen to hear from both people with hearing impairments and those without. This is a link to AHL’s survey https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/TLTJVJG The survey has to be completed by April 16th.

Sally I have absolute agreement with you on the subject as I personally have near total deafness in my right ear due to nerve and conductive damage and my left ear is only about 40 % functional . But I have a big problem with your URL –survey monkey is a Major world tracker it deposits trackers on your computer that follow you round the Web , one of my tracker blockers blocks it completely when I get an email with a link to a website news item , its bad news . I use a different method to reach any website with that tracker companies 3rd party info gatherer . I can supply details if anybody doesnt believe me , I would be failing in my help on technical matters on Which If I didnt warn the posters. If you want to avoid this tracker contact Action on Hearing Loss direct . I will now access their website using their own URL to see if there are any hidden malware.

OMG !! Visit this website at your own risk , it might be a charity from 1911 but its gone fully commercial with a lottery as well . At least they are honest in the fact that they fill your computer with trackers who “guide you ” to where they want you to go . Google Analytics/personalised cookies ,directing you /SHARING your details on Facebook / Twitter/Delicious/Digg/Discus /etc . How many posters complain of getting junk mail on Which , guaranteed on this website . Luckily ALL the cookies /trackers etc are blocked on my browser on ONE tracker blocker alone now blocking =337 trackers , 43 are Google of one sort or another . If you still wont listen then get into your browsers settings and click on delete ALL cookies on exist .

A couple had to attend a hospital A&E in the early hours and were shocked to find X rated material being broadcast in the waiting area.

Why do the people who run nearly everything these days think that life is unsupportable without either either music playing or a television on?

Presumably the staff did not realise what was on the TV as they probably “tune it out” and ignore it. I read somewhere that , while many people can do this with unwanted noise, there is a percentage who can’t and are driven mad by unending music.

I’m one of the latter. I expect most people who post on this convo are too.


Hi everyone, Luke from Action on Hearing Loss is back to announce the launch of their campaign, thanks in part to all of the comments you’ve shared here. Read can read more about their Speak Easy campaign and have your say here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/travel-leisure/action-on-hearing-loss-background-noise-in-restaurants-cafes-and-pubs/

Absolutely!!!!!! Far too loud!!!!! Just made another reservation for 12 friends at downtown pub (3 Brewers…love their food but hate the noise) and asked if music in our partitioned-off space could be lowered and was told: Music is turned up loud & difficult to turn down. Reason: “to drown out the conversations…..people do not want to be overheard” OMG! WHAT STUPID LOGIC! So everyone has to SHOUT to be heard over the music. DOES ANYONE KNOW OF PUBS THAT HAVE low amp sound?????

People keep on saying they don’t understand why its so loud . Cultural differences between the USA and the UK . Once all the young people are assimulated into American culture complaints will drop and also by that time they will be very deaf. So buy into hearing manufacturing companies now- big hearing aid USA .inc. Like Oticon inc -owner of William Demat. .

I am in a pub (well fall in Liverpool ) writing this post No music I cannot see the TV which usually in a Weatherspoons pub on but without sound I like it like this no loud hubub either

And if you return at 8 pm Bishbut –still quiet ?

Chris Trwoga says:
2 August 2018

After my recent walking holiday where I stayed in several pubs I have vowed not to book accommodation in a pub again . In one instance the music was so loud I left mid-evening (I was told the sound system would be on until after midnight), losing the £55 I had already paid. In some instances, loud, repetitive beat music was playing to a handful of customers who had positioned themselves well away from the music system and clearly weren’t listening.
I make a point these days of asking managers to turn down overloud music systems. If they refuse I leave.
Those managing public spaces need to wise up to the fact that a policy of blasting out a retail or dining space with poor quality music of their own choice can act as a deterrent. Add to that the impact on people with impaired hearing there is a genuine need for comprehensive anti-discrimination and noise pollution advice to those in the hospitality trade.