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New York City’s bars are ‘unhealthy’ for your ears

Chances are that the last bar or restaurant you visited offered the same house special: sound. And lots of it. Now, a new study suggests that all that noise is doing more than just grating on your nerves—it’s also damaging your hearing. According to a survey of 2250 bars and restaurants in Manhattan in New York City presented last week at the Acoustical Society of America’s annual meeting, noise in 71% of restaurants and 90% of bars was too loud for conversation. What’s more, a third of the borough’s restaurants and more than half of its bars have “unhealthy” sound levels—measured in the study as anything above 80 decibels. Exposure to this level of noise for prolonged times can damage hearing. For the already–hearing impaired, none of the survey locations were quiet enough for a chat. That’s because people with hearing loss need ambient noise to register lower than 60 decibels to hear and participate in conversations. In fact, failure to find a quiet date night spot is what inspired the researchers, who developed a smartphone app to measure restaurant and bars’ noise levels. Now, anyone with a smartphone can contribute measurements to the crowd-sourced database.