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SoundPrint Finds Most NYC Restaurants and Bars Potentially Endanger Patrons' Hearing Health

NEW YORK, Aug. 15, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- SoundPrint (, a crowdsourcing app that allows people to search for and rate the noise levels of city venues, has announced the release of a groundbreaking study published in the Open Journal of Social Sciences, that measures sound levels at restaurants and bars in Manhattan. It is the first ever large-scale study of its kind and also provides insight into sound level variance by neighborhood and type of cuisine.

The survey found that on average, New York City restaurants, measured in decibels (dBA), are too noisy for conversation (78 dBA) and that New York City bars potentially endanger the hearing health of venue employees and patrons (81 dBA).  More than 70% of restaurants and 90% of bars are either Loud (dBA 76-80) or Very Loud (dBA +81), meaning 30% of restaurants and 10% of bars are conducive to conversation.  Additionally, 30% of restaurants and 60% of bars are Very Loud, putting venue employees and patrons at risk for noise-induced hearing loss and other non-auditory health effects.

The survey, using the SoundPrint app, measured 2,376 Manhattan restaurants and bars between July 2015–June 2017 during primetime days and hours (Wednesday-Saturday, from 7pm-10pm) and were measured at least three times. Each venue's dBA submissions were averaged to get one output dBA, and all submissions were at least 15 seconds.  The sound level ratings system used was as follows: Quiet (below 71 dBA), Moderate (71-75 dBA), Loud (76-80 dBA - difficult for conversation and likely safe for hearing) and Very Loud (81+ dBA - prolonged exposure potentially endangers hearing health).

In comparing the sound levels in restaurants by neighborhood, SoundPrint found the Lower East Side to be the loudest, with an average dBA of 81. The East Village, West Village, Flatiron-Gramercy and Murray Hill were all at 79 dBA, Chelsea and Tribeca at 78 dBA, followed by Midtown West, Midtown East, Little Italy and the Upper East Side at 77 dBA, and the Upper West Side at 76 dBA. And the neighborhoods with the highest percentage of quieter restaurants are Midtown West, Midtown East, Upper West Side and Upper East Side.

Not surprisingly, bars revealed higher sound levels. Murray Hill, Lower East Side, East Village, West Village, Flatiron-Gramercy and Tribeca were all finalists for neighborhoods with the loudest bars, each with an average dBA of 82, which is Very Loud; while Chelsea had an average dBA of 81, Midtown West and Upper West Side had an average dBA of 80, and the Upper East Side with an average dBA of 79.

When looking at noise level by cuisine, Mexican restaurants were the loudest at an average dBA of 80, followed by Latin, Spanish and American at 79, Mediterranean at 78, and Italian and French at 76. In contrast, Asian restaurants such as Indian and Chinese, at 73 dBA, and Japanese at 74 dBA, were the quieter cuisines. These venues tended to have low background music, if any, and more sound absorbing materials such as carpeting and tablecloths.

This evidence-based study helps raise noise pollution awareness, a topic that SoundPrint founder Gregory Scott, a New Yorker with hearing loss, is passionate about.  As sound levels increasingly eclipse 75 dBA, people with normal hearing have increasing difficulty following a conversation.  Moreover, excessive noise is a health hazard for patrons and venue employees such as managers, waiters, and kitchen staff, and can lead to hearing loss and non-auditory health effects such as stress, hypertension and heart disease.

"There has been a considerable rise in noise complaints in restaurants as reported in surveys such as Zagat's and evidenced by the rise in number of media articles on the subject. Yet the feedback until now has been primarily subjective," says Scott. "SoundPrint was created to empower patrons and business owners to evaluate noise levels based on objective data (dBA), and share their findings with others so people can make informed decisions about which venues they would like to patronize, and how and when they might be able to optimize or mitigate the sound levels in the noisier venues."

As a data collection tool for venue sound levels, SoundPrint aims to collaborate with researchers, notably in the field of acoustics and audiology, as well as with local agencies, public health organizations and other university departments to collect and analyze data. 

For the entire study, please visit:

Available nationwide, SoundPrint allows you to "Find Your Quiet Place," for a date, business meeting or an intimate conversation with friends and family. The SoundPrint app features a decibel meter to measure the noise level of an establishment and submit the results to the SoundPrint database, which has more than 35,000 noise level submissions, 15,000 of which are in NYC. For more information visit: You can download the app via the Apple Store.  You can also follow SoundPrint on Facebook and Twitter.

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Last Updated: 16-Aug-2018