An online survey of 1200 members of the general public conducted by the charity found that nearly 40% have completely misheard their date or partner during a romantic meal because of loud background noise, resulting in awkward conversations ranging from confusion about who is paying the bill, if there is a next date and even failed marriage proposals.
Potential romance deal breakers from people surveyed included:
- ‘My partner said they wanted marriage, kids and a dog and I only heard the bit about the dog. It was awkward because he didn’t realise that I hadn’t heard the rest.’
- ‘I thought she said she loved me, but she said she loves Stew.’
- ‘He asked me to move in with him and I thought he had asked me to prove my love to him.’
- ‘I missed my partner saying I love you for the first time because of loud background noise.’
- ‘Was dumped by my partner but due to the noise I thought he was trying to propose.’
One respondent even ended up booking the wrong holiday: ‘We were talking about holidays and I booked where he hated instead of where he wanted to go because I misheard him.’
Overall, over one in three people (38%) told the charity that they considered their date ruined because they had to repeat themselves while struggling to keep up with the flow of conversation due to high background noise.
Nearly half (45%) of people said that background music being turned up too high is the noise that irritates them the most when they are eating out. This was a close second to the noises from other diners’ children (51%), and ahead of the noise of people talking on their mobile phone (33%).
The charity’s Speak Easy campaign is calling on restaurants to take action on background noise.
Paul Breckell, Action on Hearing Loss Chief Executive, explained: ‘A romantic meal out is all about making a connection and having a special night, but our survey suggests that a third of people have had a bad date due to the high levels of background noise which can ruin a romantic occasion just because people can’t hear each other.
‘We would like more restaurants to engage with us on our Speak Easy campaign to provide a quieter dining experience where people don’t have to repeat themselves or raise their voices to be heard. Our research shows that it would encourage more people to dine out and become loyal customers.’
The survey also highlighted that ex-partners was the topic to avoid the most on a first date (55%), followed by people saying they loved them (28%), talking about having children (27%), politics (25%) and Brexit (15%).
As part of the campaign the charity is also urging customers to let restaurants, cafés and pubs know that the buzz is getting out of hand by using its handy campaign pack which can be downloaded via www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/speakeasypack and used to persuade more venues to provide a quieter eating experience.