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 have auditory processing disorder, which means that in the presence of loud background noise, I lose the ability to understand speech. I can hear it but my brain can’t process it so it just becomes part of the ambient sound. In loud environments I often have to put a finger in one ear and get so close to people that they are almost spitting in my open ear just to have a conversation. Over years of this I have ended actively avoid pubs and clubs when I can, which has made me seem very antisocial and unfriendly, but most people seem to enjoy the loud music so I’ve just had to be the unsociable one.


Maybe you should complain that these establishments are discriminating against you in breach of the Equality Act 2010. Auditory processing disorder fulfils the definition of a disability under Section 6. If the minority suffering from this disorder complain, it would also be of great benefit also to the majority who don’t suffer from it. It could also be argued that these establishments are discriminating by age, which is covered by Section 5.


Much too arduous. Just don’t use the noisy places. Life much about choices.


I agree Bruce. Where you must attend places – say medical- where you have no choice then it is wrong to inflict unwanted noise. Where you have a choice – restaurant, club – then you can stay, leave, or simply not go in the first place.

The question arises of what is the position of staff who work there, and have no choice (other than changing jobs). Some think they like the noise and need distraction, others that they should not also have to suffer. I presume they will have to accept it unless it is a health and safety issue – damaging levels.

David says:
18 October 2015

I agree totally with G*. I have very good hearing for my age, in part from working as a noise and vibration engineer before retiring and being able to minimise the risks. Normally I can almost hear a pin drop but as soon as I am in a noisy environment I cannot pick out the wanted sound (usually speech) from the swamping effect of the additional noise. I’ve found some help wearing Elacin customised moulded ear plugs, otherwise known as musicians’ ear plugs, which have a flat response to incoming sound so that the volume reduces without distortion. Although the mixed sounds are still there, I find the lower volume easier to enable me to separate out the wanted content of the sounds. However, it’s not ideal and I’d far prefer music levels to be reduced. Unfortunately, for short duration exposure to noise within statutory limits, there is no major risk to hearing and no legal means of banning the use of music in the background.

Kathleen says:
30 January 2016

I went to Brighton yesterday to buy clothes.. I couldn’t due to music playing loud .. I always complain, however staff just smile and say ,, it’s from head office and we can’t turn it down ,, and it’s gotten worst over the years , it’s a real problem for me , gone are the days you could wander around a shop without loud music , some of which are down right depressing .


Years ago when I went into the local Co-op Kathleen I complained about the “noise ” -aka “music ” I too was told its via head office on satellite . and yes they had an external sat dish. The last time I was on Brighton Pier I bought a baked potato from one of those all in one mobile cooking equipment machines and it was during the Mod,s + Rocker,s era . Have you checked out the house prices now ,millions of £££££ ?

Jean says:
7 October 2017

I agree Kathleen, I struggle to hear properly when loud. Sic is playing, I love music but do not understand why it should be played so loud.