VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A Vancouver-based hearing loss expert says loud music in restaurants is driving customers away or keeping them from eating out more.
Grace Shyng, the Interim Executive Director of the Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, says a recent safety bulletin issued by WorkSafeBC doesn’t just impact employees.
“One of the big things that our clients tell us is they would love to go out to restaurants more, but they can’t hear that well in the noisy environment,” she says. “This is a population that would love to go out every day and they have the disposable income to do that.”
Shyng, who’s also a clinical assistant professor at UBC, adds many of the nearly 160,000 British Columbians who are deaf or hard of hearing would probably spend more money in a setting with noise-reducing acoustics.
She says many clients at the WIDHH feel music is deliberately loud in restaurants because managers are seeking a high turnover of customers.
“I think restaurant owners really need to re-think that. They will see there is this population that really wants to go out. Don’t you think if we stayed in there, we might order more food, more drinks, we might actually invite more people to come? There are so many missed opportunities because it’s so noisy.”
Shyng praises WorkSafeBC’s recent notice which shows employees at sawmills or construction sites aren’t the only workers at risk of hearing loss. It says ten per cent of all Canadians are impacted by hearing loss because noise levels often exceed the safe limit of 85 decibels.
“With the population aging, we’re going to see an increase of reported cases of people developing hearing loss,” Shyng says.
Last year, the Institute served more than 14,000 clients and Shyng tells NEWS 1130 most are people older than 50 with a lot of disposable income.
“They’ll say, ‘I’m having trouble hearing. I prefer to stay at home. I don’t enjoy dining out.’ And they miss it. They actually miss it. There’s room to be more creative in how we design public spaces. Acoustic materials help reduce the echo that can occur in large, open spaces.”
She says that’s partly why the WIDHH, which has three locations in the Lower Mainland (Vancouver-Kitsilano, Vancouver-Broadway and Port Coquitalm), is building a new Centre of Excellence in Vancouver.
The provincial government has invested $1 million towards construction slated to start this fall.