Why is it so hard to hear the person across the table from me?

You’re in a restaurant or a bar to meet your friends, what should be an enjoyable experience, but it turns into sheer frustration and disappointment.

Why? Because you can’t hear what your friends are saying.

In the past, you would lean forward to get closer to them to compensate for the excess background noise, but now with the virus, you can’t.

Lip reading, whether we realise it or not, helps us understand what our friends are speaking in these situations, but that is now also out the window, as everybody is wearing a mask.

So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s a combination of several factors which typically include how loud the background noise levels are and what type of furnishing is in the space.

Background Noise

Background noise is usually related to the number of people who are in your immediate vicinity/company and how loud they are speaking.

Other sources of background noise are piped music played at a high level.

So to be heard, you have to speak in a loud tone to be louder than the music.

Interior Design

The second significant factor here is the interior design. Acoustic’s are essential to many interior’s specialists. However, there are many poorly designed pubs and restaurants from an acoustic perspective being rolled out.

Designers are happy to have a beautiful high ceiling with exposed services, but they don’t realise the pitfalls.

Hardwood floors, high ceilings, and exposed concrete traps sound/noise within the room and increases the noise level. This is terrible if you’re working there every day, leaving work with your ears ringing. And the customers will say “It’s too loud” or “It’s not very cosy”.

The outcome is an uncomfortable acoustic environment which you want to get away from.

So what’s the solution?

By addressing background noise and ensuring that there are enough sound-absorbing materials in a space, you will be ahead of the pack. Make sure music isn’t unnecessarily loud, especially if conversation is an essential aspect of the space.

From an interior finish point of view, you have to ensure that there are sufficient sound-absorbing materials. In practical terms, it means reducing the amount of hard, sound-reflecting surfaces by the incorporation of sound-absorbing materials and finishes within a given space.

By including for such materials in a room, it will dramatically reduce the levels of “noise” which will take the acoustic temperature right down. People will be less inclined to talk in a loud tone, as they don’t feel the need to shout as much. So you can sit back and enjoy the conversation, soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the going-out experience.

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