Landmark Study Finds Most NYC Restaurants and Bars Potentially Endanger Patrons’ Hearing Health

by SoundPrint Team

Groundbreaking Study Raises Awareness of Increasing Noise Pollution, Finding Majority of NYC Restaurants & Bars Too Loud for Conversation

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 (WednesdaySaturday, 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).


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: