Once a week, I have lunch with my old prof, usually on a Friday, and we go to the same restaurant each time, frequently at the same table in the bar where, as we arrive, our cocktails are waiting for us. It's where we can talk quietly and not be overrun by loud music. Twice a month a group of middle-aged
frat boys businessmen gather at the bar, make a terrific din for an half-hour or so, and then slope off for lunch at a round table which, by the time we leave, is awash with bottles and loud good humor.
So commonplace is noise and so inured are we to this constant companion it is easy to forget how much of what we hear is intentionally part of our environment – without wishing to be redundant, noise is designed into our world to the point where it's almost climatic.
At lunch with a friend last Saturday, the Celt's new iPhone app recorded a noise level of above 90dB (decibels) where we sat. On a comparison table 90 decibels is the equivalent of a train whistle from 500 feet and is also the point at which regular sustained exposure may cause permanent damage. For an occasional diner there is little danger of hearing damage until one takes into consideration other noise levels in everyday life: city traffic inside an automobile is averaged at 85 decibels and normal conversation at a distance of 3-5 feet is 60-70 decibels For the staff at these places exposure to high levels of noise is constant. What these figures indicate is not only how loud our environment has become but how delicate is our hearing.
The irony is, on Saturday, we commented how pleasant it was to lunch in, relatively speaking, a quieter environment.