/ 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?

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


This comment was removed at the request of the user

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.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

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

This comment was removed at the request of the user

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.

You should remind these people about the equality act and their legal obligations to make such places as open all as possible and not needlessly EXclude anyone which is supposed to be illegal now.

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.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

This comment was removed at the request of the user

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.


Why not take your own universal remote control and play about with it until it operates the TV there and then you can turn it off. I’m not scared to try such a thing. In fact I used to have to go for appointments at a special unit some years ago and they had a TV there making an excruciating noise so I pulled out the cable at the back and removed the signal and I got away with it. It didn’t do it any harm, they could soon plug it back in again when I was gone.

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?????

This comment was removed at the request of the user

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

This comment was removed at the request of the user

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.

I enjoy lively pubs and restaurants. I do not mind them being noisy, if the noise is generated by customers having a good time. Also, if kids in other other parties are noisier than the ones in my party, that can be a real bonus.

But I really do not like places where loud canned music or loud televised sport permeates the whole establishment.

I agree Derek, it is part of the expected “customer experience”, a phrase that seems popular. What I also dislike is over-loud music when it is just impossible to hear a conversation.

On a slightly different tack I dislike background music in tv programmes that overwhelm the commentary. In fact, in many cases such as documentaries I question why it is needed at all throughout the programme.

I wish speech and music on TV were on different tracks so that they can be modulated to provide a comfortable listening and viewing experience.

Well, through the best HDMI connections they are in fact, and fed through a decent amp you can set up profiles which reduce background sounds and SFX, to give greater prominence to speech. That’s actually what I’ve done with our Sony 9:1 amp, and set up different profiles with varying parameters, so I can choose the profile which allows one to hear dialogue without having to check for subsidence caused by intolerably loud SFX.

I think it should be available on any TV set and not require additional apparatus.

I am a bit of a ‘plug-&-play’ type and don’t like fiddling about with the settings. It irritates me that the sound levels differ between channels, SD and HD pictures, and even between programmes on the same channel.

And very different, in some cases. But I suspect that’s a penalty we pay for the numerous channels we now have.

I’ve only just discovered this conversation, and it looks like I’m a bit late. I’d just like to say that public places are far too often far too noisy for me in all the worst possible ways as I suffer with far more extreme misophonia which certainly IS a severe disability but is never recognised as such and it’s long overdue for it to be properly recognised as such. Then we wouldn’t have things like new trains which are all open all the way through from end to end with absolutely NO absolutely ESSENTIAL QUIET segregation which is NOT impractical. And it makes them totally unusable for anyone like me which is supposed to be illegal now but try telling that to your local mp or the department for transport, you just get ignored which infuriates me. They all know don’t they that they mustn’t DARE exclude any wheelchair users as there’ll be outrage all over but at the same time they all know that no-one gives a STUFF about anyone like me, oh no! And I keep WELL clear of ALL pubs, clubs bars, restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, theme parks, fairs, car boot sales etc. because of the appalling noise in such places, especially raucous cackling fits which to me are a BRUTAL violent assault! As is whistling and stupid insane clicking fingers which is far too often played on PA systems in shops making them TOTALLY unusable for anyone like me which again is supposed to be illegal but try telling that to the shopkeepers or the supermarkets, or those in authority, they all too often don’t want to know. The so-called “equality” act is worthless as it’s hardly ever enforced for disabled folk unless they use a wheelchair. And wheelchair users form only less than 10% of UK disabled folk, what about the other 90-odd percent?!