Ear, ear

Girl With Hands Over Ears

SHEILA ROBBSHAW is a Leeming resident and in her own words, a “cantankerous old bat who likes to sound off about things”. She feels very strongly about manners and consideration for others, and in this week’s THINKING ALLOWED she gets stuck into cafes and restaurants who pummel their patrons’ ears with pumping muzak. 

Is she the only one who thinks it’s getting a little out of hand? Let us know by emailing news@fremantleherald.com or logging onto http://www.fremantleherald.com and joining the conversation on our interactive site.

SOME people may remember the old days when one went to the cinema and watched the film through a haze of smoke.

Those really were the bad old days — and then we became aware of the dangers of pollution and things started to change.

Ashtrays disappeared from the backs of seats in buses and cinema seats and off restaurant tables.

And then came a giant leap forward, restaurants started offering smoke-free zones.

The age of awareness had arrived, and we are all better off for it.

Noise is pollution too, and can be damaging, if not to one’s health, certainly to one’s hearing.

Why is it that shops, even large department stores, bars, cafes and restaurants, seem to feel that loud, often discordant music, will attract customers?

Perhaps it is a draw card for young folk, but the chances are it is a deterrent to those who might be the ones who will spend the money to enjoy themselves over a leisurely meal in an inviting atmosphere.

Constantly having to raise one’s voice does not equate to a leisurely, pleasant or relaxing dining or shopping experience; quite the contrary.

A few weeks ago my husband and I spent about 40 minutes walking round Fremantle looking for a place to have lunch, a venue that was not playing doof, doof, doof “music” or shrieking vocals.

Background music is intended to be just that, something pleasant and melodic in the background to create the atmosphere that most diners seek, somewhere to relax over a good meal and perhaps a glass or two.

Somewhere along the line the message seems to have been lost.

The the of background noise is not for the benefit of the staff, but surely is intended for the enjoyment of customers — and to attract potential customers to a venue.


In our 40-minute ramble around Fremantle, there was a sign outside that caught our eye — paella on the menu.

Now, I would put up with quite a lot for a good paella — but the overpowering noise was just too much.

We actually went on a scout around the restaurant twice to see if there was perhaps a quiet corner.

On both occasions we asked a member of staff.

One response was, “No, sorry.”

The next one said, “Try inside, but there are speakers there too.”

We eventually found a place, the hotel opposite the Norfolk pines, that appeared to be reasonably quiet — but guess what, halfway through our meal the volume of noise increased.

Talk about sense of humour failure …

I understand that businesses need to attract customers, and they would like those customers to return.

May I make the suggestion that restaurateurs, store managers and, yes, even that big hardware shop that seems to be on every corner, consider that a large proportion of their clients do not enjoy an assault on the ears every time they walk through the doors.

Play background music by all means, but choose something appropriate and unobtrusive to play in the background.

It’s can’t be that hard.

I once asked a salesperson in a large department store in the city how she could bear the noise. Her response to me was, “I can’t. I go home with a headache every day.”

That tells me there could be an occupational health issue here too. Why should we be subjected to noise we do not wish to hear?

Everyone who travels on buses and trains will have been subjected to second-hand sound from someone’s iPod, or had to endure a loud phone conversation.

Fascinating as it may have been, I doubt that too many people are keen to repeat the experience on a regular basis. Remember the no-smoking areas?

Perhaps the time has come for restauranteurs to create low-noise areas (it can’t be too technically challenging to switch off a couple of speakers).

They might even find that they attract a whole group of new customers who in the past were deterred by the noise.

It is really worth a try.

3 responses to “Ear, ear

  1. Yes agree whole heartedly much too much noise everywhere these days, we also just walk past places like this.

  2. I agree with the article. If weighing the claim of those who want loud background music against those who want peace and quiet, ask: Is the ‘pain’ of being subject to unavoidable, unwanted music greater than the ‘pain’ of having no music, I say – yes, absolutely! Those who desire loud music can always find it somewhere, but those who want to avoid it often have difficulty.

  3. The echo of my thoughts. But fear not the younger generation are catching up. Progress is unbearably slow. You can ask my grandfather who never had smart phone or a mega phone but still made his thoughts public knowledge. Stone deaf and gave up at 101 years old shouting at this 500 partner. We believe he lost. We heard him! Now i am 60 and i love the noise of youth but despair of their social etiquette . Now maybe that is worthy of some forward planning!

Leave a Reply