hearing loss“As an audiologist,” writes Patricia Greene in the Washington Post, “I was alarmed to read about the sound level at “BandoleroA check at the spirited Mexican restaurant in Georgetown averaged 105 decibels, the din associated with a power mower.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, says Greene, who works for Kaiser Permanente in Gaithersburg, an individual should not be in an environment with these readings for more than an hour without the use of ear protection.

“Exposure at these levels (even for relatively brief periods of time) can cause damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, which leads to permanent hearing loss. I hope the employees are using ear protection since they are exposed to these excessive levels for an extended period of time. Even the diners are at risk.” Green encourages consumers to buy noise-reduction earplugs, commonly available at hardware stores.

Steve Uhr, director of operations for Bandolero and its sibling in Chinatown, Graffiato, says the well-being of his staff and guests is of the “utmost importance,” and if they raised any concerns about the environment “we would attempt to rectify that.” But he hasn’t heard a peep.

“In my work, the primary factor leading to the request for a hearing examination is difficulty hearing in restaurants,” says Greene, who has a clinical doctorate in audiology. “More and more patients are complaining about this and are not going out as much as they did in the past. This is not only noted with my older patients but also for my younger patients,” who “are now using hearing aids and avoiding loud restaurants.”

The silver lining in the cloud, rues Greene: “I will have work for a long time!”