3 On Your Side

Is dining out ruining your hearing?

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Millions of people have some sort of hearing loss and more than half report it isn’t from work.

While it may be hard to pinpoint exact causes, there is no doubt our world is getting noisier. Part of the loud crowd? Restaurants. They ranked among the noisiest places in a recent survey.

We wanted to find out just how noisy restaurants can be.

So, we went undercover, taking decibel readings using a government-designed app and an actual sound meter.

We found readings that peaked as high as 104 decibels, about the same as a jackhammer.

But our average readings ranged between 83 decibels, about the level emitted by a blender, and 95 decibels, about the same as a lawn mower.

“We've seen, over the years, restaurants getting noisier. It's an area that is often gone unchecked people don't expect to have any kind of damaging exposure be it to noise, be it other factors when they go out to restaurants,” says assistant professor and clinical audiologist Jason Wigand.

Debra Gold is a singer on weekends and works in an office during the day.

She noticed hearing loss, which she attributes to being in a band. But, now she is more cautious about her noise exposure everywhere.

“When I go into a restaurant I find it very difficult to hear my friends,” says Gold.

So what do our numbers mean? Wigand says, typically, experts consider damaging noise levels to be over 85 decibels.

But he stresses, one night of dining out won’t ruin your hearing. It’s all about exposure over time.

“Repeated chronic exposure to noise even if they're at safer levels has increased the risk of permanent hearing loss,” says Wigand.

Of course, not eating out is no fun.

Experts say you can ask to be seated in a “quiet area” away from TVs, speakers, the kitchen or bar area.

Debra says she now makes reservations at restaurants which tend to be on the “quieter” side, saying, “When I make plans to go out for dinner it's going to be at places where I know I’m going to have a much more pleasant experience.”

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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

Click to learn more about Gary.

Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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