restaurantAn NBC TODAY Show segment that aired yesterday exposed the dangers of excessive noise levels that occur in many restaurants – and illustrate the need for trained professionals to do testing, according to the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).

High noise levels in restaurants can not only make conversation difficult; they can cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). TODAY Show reporter Mike Taibbi told viewers that the sound levels in some restaurants reach 90 decibels and above—the equivalent of the noise from a power lawnmower or a newspaper press.

The segment did not specifically address the effects of such high noise levels on restaurant workers, who are exposed for a much greater time period than diners. Such noise “adds to workers’ cumulative dose,” according to John Ratliff, CIH, CSP, MSPH, the past chair of AIHA’s Noise Committee. “If we do dosimetry testing during the day when people are at work, we assume that workers are resting their ears at night. We know that’s not true.”

“What stuck out to me about the segment is that we are allowing so much noise into our world that we’re getting exposures both on and off the job,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff said that some of the efforts to control noise discussed on the TODAY Show segment, such as sound-dampening walls and tablecloths, can significantly lower noise in restaurants. “These measures need to be well planned and evaluated after installation to ensure they are actually reducing noise levels,” Ratliff said.

Many professionals who perform sound level measurements for noise can be found in AIHA’s Consultants Listing, the leading directory of industrial hygiene and other occupational and environmental health and safety consultants. The Consultants Listing is available in print or online at