Noise can put you off your food

5th October 2020 | Eativity editors

We’ve all been there: eating out at a restaurant where the background noise is so loud, you can’t hear the person across from you unless they shout. It certainly doesn’t make for refined dinner conversation, but it turns out it can also lessen your enjoyment of the food you’re served. A recent Flinders University laboratory study that replicated common noise levels in restaurants has found that noise can make or break a dining experience, and some people are more sensitive to it than others.

The acoustic experts say the study proves that high noise levels can play a major part in a dining experience – along with the quality of the food and restaurant service.

“Our study not only shows that relaxing music at low noise levels increases food enjoyment but indicates that even ‘normal’ background noise levels in restaurants can be unpleasant to diners,” says study lead author, Flinders University PhD candidate Mahmoud Alamir.

“We don’t always recognise the cumulative effect of noise to our stress or annoyance levels, but we see how every one of us has sensitivity to noise in different ways.”

Poor acoustics, loud music, other diners: restaurant noise can really dampen your appetite.

The study considered factors such as age, gender and noise sensitivity to background noise. Accordingly, noise-sensitive people, as well as older people and females, reported lower enjoyment of food when there’s elevated background noise.

Flinders Univeristy acoustic engineer and study co-author Dr Kristy Hansen says the results highlight the importance of noise management strategies in restaurants to provide better dining experiences: “This could include more practical acoustic design of dining areas to suit different groups of people,” she suggests. “Quiet dining areas should be considered for older and noise-sensitive people.”

The international research group plans to release more information and guidelines on “healthy” noise levels. We’ll keep an ear out for it.

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