The New York Times measured dangerously high noise levels at one-third of the 37 restaurants, bars, stores and gyms across the city it visited:
At the Brooklyn Star in Williamsburg, the volume averaged 94 decibels over an hour and a half — as loud as an electric drill. At the Standard Hotel’s Biergarten in the meatpacking district, where workers can log 10-hour shifts, the noise level averaged 96 decibels. No music was playing: the noise was generated by hundreds of voices bouncing off the metal skeleton of the High Line.
At Beaumarchais, a nightclub-like brasserie on West 13th Street, the music averaged 99 decibels over 20 minutes and reached 102 in its loudest 5 minutes. “It definitely takes a toll,” a waiter said.
Workers at these places said the sound levels, which were recorded over periods as long as an hour and a half, were typical when they were working.
One spin class at a Crunch gym on the Upper West Side averaged 100 decibels over 40 minutes and hit 105 in its loudest 5. At a Crunch gym in Park Slope, Brooklyn, the noise level averaged 91 decibels. At the Fifth Avenue flagship store of Abercrombie & Fitch, which has designed many of its stores to resemble nightclubs, pulsating music hit 88 decibels, just shy of the limit at which workers are required to wear protection if exposed to that volume for eight hours.
By way of comparison, a C train hurtling downtown in Manhattan registered at 84 decibels; normal conversation is from 60 to 65 decibels.
Some research has shown that people drink more when music is loud; one study found that people chewed faster when tempos were sped up. Armed with this knowledge, some bars, retailers and restaurants are finely tuning sound systems, according to audio engineers and restaurant consultants.