Are people living at higher volume these days?

We went to a bar after the movie last night. The place was fairly full, but not so full we couldn’t find a table for four. I can’t remember the last time I was in a bar other than a hotel bar, and was immediately struck by the level of noise. People were literally shouting their conversations. A woman at the pool table kept shrieking every time she sank a shot, two guys near us had foghorn voices cranked to maximum volume and every time Horse Laugh Woman lit up behind me, it was like a dentist’s drill in my ear. Since I’ve developed tinnitus, hearing conversation in noisy places is difficult enought, but at that volume, I was unable to hear anything at all from my friends. We were there for about an hour, and this morning the tinnitus is really screaming.

Now I used to hang out in a lot of bars when I was younger. Some of them were places you wouldn’t probably take a date, and some of them were downright dives, full of military guys having a good time. But I don’t remember them being so painfully loud.

Is this a product of the plugged in generations of kids over the past 20-30 years? Has their hearing been so damaged by high volumes of music and the constant injection of sound through ear buds from phones, etc. the cause of this? Does anybody else feel like public conversation has become a shouting match?

Was there music playing? Usually bars have the music turned up so loud that you have to shout just to have a conversation with people sitting at the same table, resulting in the bartenders or whoever is in charge to turn the music up even louder.

I was gonna propose it was ‘noise wars’ where the louder source 1 gets (say, a TV, music, etc) the louder source 2 has to get to overcome it (other people’s voices) till each get louder and louder.

But you said you thought Bars were quieter back in the day. So maybe not.

Or maybe just your perception? Maybe you were more accustomed to being around loud noises in the past and it seemed ‘quieter’ relative to other activities, but now you live a little more of a serene existence all the noise is really noticible?

Several years ago a friend was living with some people, and I spent the night there. The TV’s volume was all the way up, and when they were ‘watching’ TV they talked through the movie – shouted, actually. (When I watch a movie, I want to actually watch the movie – not engage in conversation.) Outside, or out of range of the TV, I noticed that their normal conversational volume was close to a shout. I’ve also noticed that public places tend to be louder than I remember (except for places where music is the attraction, of course.)

actually, I’m finding that in NYC at least, everyplace is too noisy for me to phone anyone on my cel. Last week, I wandered around midtown manhattan, from hotel lobby, to the street, to vestibules, to restaurants, looking for a quiet place where I could hear the person on the other end, and got shut out everywhere. Muzak, music, street racket, hubbub–everyplace was loaded with ambient noise.

All public places like that have always been loud enough that it hurts my ears. They all talk louder and louder to speak over the others in the place instead of talking softly and privately.

Nope, no music in the place. The TV was on, but either the volume was turned off or the other noise in the place was drowning it out. Bars weren’t quiet back in the day, but I don’t remember them being this loud unless people were talking over music. Perhaps it’s just Friday night unwinding, release from the workweek, and too much alcohol. Or maybe I’m just getting too old for that scene. :frowning:

Maybe they were just drunk? I find that drunk people tend to be much louder (and more annoying), and in addition, it seems like more people drink to get drunk these days so you’re more likely to have a bunch of drunks at a pub these days compared to 20 or 30 years ago.

You’re all missing the point. Noisy bars are an evolutionary strategy on the part of shallow people to keep the rest of us out of the mating pool.

I think it’s part generational, part environmental.

FWIW, I’m 44; at the tail end of Generation X. Most of my peers really don’t like loud venues. Even at my 25th year high school reunion this year, the DJ played music at a volume where one could still easily hold a conversation without screaming. My SO and I would find ourselves leaving restaurants, coffeehouses or other venues where it felt uncomfortably loud. I can’t speak for everbody in their late 30s and early 40s, but I remember in my youth, bars, clubs, parties and so on were usually much quieter. Of course, rock concerts and dance clubs were the exception, but even then I attended some concerts where my ears weren’t ringing afterward.

A frequent topic of discussion at the SDMB (and other message boards) is “Why do young people listen to music at such a loud volume?”, referencing boom cars, loud clubs where it’s impossible to hold a conversation, and the like. There’s no shortage of twentysomething Dopers chiming in to say “I prefer to listen to music at a high volume”. However, why the Generation Y and Millennial crowd seems to prefer an ambient background that is borderline painful never seems to be answered.

Environmental? Consider a typical high-end restaurant of the 1980s. The floors were likely carpeted, and there were probably curtains on the windows. Tables had tablecloths, and seats were soft. In short, there was a lot of material to absorb ambient noise. Today, the preferred high-end aesthetic is more industrial, with hardwood, concrete or tile floors; no window coverings, no tablecloths, and harder surfaces all around; sound bounces around everywhere.

Elmwood beat me to one thing I was going to say - the current trend in restaurant and bar design. Everything is hard surfaces - metal tables, wooden chairs, concrete floors, not a single piece of fabric in the place. For me, the VAST majority of restaurants are extremely loud these days, in some cases nerve-wrackingly so.

I have also noticed an upward tick in what I call “aural pollution.” I was at a 2-day conference this week at a local university, and the university buildings had speakers on the outside piping a local radio station into the outdoor areas. I mentioned to my colleague that it made me think of those movies where dictators’ speeches are blared outdoors in cities - you couldn’t get away from the music anywhere on the campus.

Combine that with the fact that I can’t seem to go anywhere without being talked at at high volumes (my favorite example is that the gas pumps now cajole me to buy additives or car washes), and I wonder if we’ve all just gotten used to a high level of background buzz.

Not just that, but I forgot one more thing: ceilings. From the 1950s through the 1980s, ceilings in restaurants and bars tended to be low. Often there had dropped ceilings with sound-absorbing acoustic tile. Today, thanks in part to a more vigorous historic preservation, dropped ceilings have been removed in older buildings, revealing a bare plaster or tin plated ceiling above. With an industrial/loft aesthetic being far more commonplace, electrical conduits, HVAC ducting, structural supports, and often the corrugated underbelly of a metal roof or floor, are no longer elements that would be concealed by a dropped ceiling.

I have a friend living in NYC that I meet for dinner whenever I am there. Well, most of the places that he likes seem to be so noisy that you can’t have a conversation without shouting. Of course, everyone there is shouting. There is a restaurant in the Village called Peep (vaguely Thai, good food, overpriced) that is particularly bad. It is a long narrow room and I rather suspect that it has been lined with acoustically live materials that amplify the effect. I won’t go there again. But NYC restaurants all seem to be excessively noisy. Here in Montreal, people keep their voices down to where they cannot be overheard and restaurants are much quieter.

That’s why it seemed so loud to you.
Nothing has changed…
The volume level was just as bad 30 years ago, when I quit going to bars for the same reason.

Loud music in bars is sometimes a financial decision on the part of the bar owner. If you’re talking, you ain’t drinking. No cite handy, but I believe studies have shown that people drink more if conversation is difficult.

However, I don’t think that it’s entirely fair to put this down as a generational thing. Lots of people listened to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and The Who at loud volumes in decades past, and their parents bitched about it too.

Bars have changed considerably in my lifetime. It was once common to have “quiet” bars in a neighborhood where you went for a bit of gentle repose. These were places where you went to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Something along the lines of the TV show “Cheers”. If there was a jukebox in the bar the volume was set on “radio in the next room” so people could hear each other from across the bar (much like “Cheers”). Not all bars were like that but they were plentiful enough. Those are all gone now.

To be clear on what I’ve said, I’m referring to stand-alone bars. There are probably some hotel bars that cater to a quieter atmosphere and there may be some hi-end bars where mixed drinks start at $10 but I’m talking about a neighborhood bar.

Those bars have been squeezed out by sports and music bars and technology has rendered them noisier by default. Multiple large screen TV’s surrounded by dozens of “small” TV’s mean a sports bar can have dozens of groups cheering for their individual teams at the same time. It become one continuous celebration of all the different teams scoring points. Add one person for each team who insists on yelling or whistling as if they are trying to get the attention of passing aircraft and you have today’s equivalent of auditory hell.

Hey, I still like to blast a solid rock tune in the car (now that my home stereo is gone), but I’m not bothering anybody by doing it. I listened to loud music when I was younger, also. I mean: Hendryx played at the ‘2’ setting? Are we joking here? But I don’t remember shouting at each other in order to have a conversation. This seems to happen outdoors now, also. I guess it would be easy to just leave it all to the 20-40 crowd, but restaurants are becoming an annoyance as well. It seems that a lot of folks just think that everyone is interested in every detail of their boring lives.

It also has the advantage that if you are chatting up someone you want to get laid with, you have a perfectly reasonable excuse for leaning in close and talking into their ear.

Yes, and they went to quiet bars to get away from us kids who played Led Zeppelin on stereos that were set to “stun”. :wink:

Turn down the hearing aid old man! :stuck_out_tongue:
I’ve always preferred less noise in public venues than more. Now that I’m older and can actually go out on occasion I prefer brewpubs to bars. I’ve always hated going to bars because it’s always so loud. Brewpubs are typically more like restaraunts than bars, but they serve lots of different beers and liquors. Although, there’s one brewpub that’s all wood and concrete and huge, so all the conversations going on make it very loud.