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 — and she nixed my joking solution, cotton balls, as worthless.
“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,
, 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!”
* * *
After I complained in my online food discussion about the many middling restaurant meals I’ve experienced in the past several months, one follower suggested I pack my bags.
“While I believe term limits to be a plausible solution to our political mess here in D.C., I am starting to think they should also apply to food critics,” submitted the anonymous participant of my Wednesday chat. “Do you think it’s wise for a food critic to serve the same market for many, many years?”
I do! I do! Because in most cases, it takes time (and money) for a restaurant critic to eat around his market and really understand it. And because a reviewer with some age on him can put his subjects in better context, thanks in part to historical perspective. In other markets where I’ve worked as a food journalist — Milwaukee, San Francisco, Seattle — I believe my best work was in my last years in those cities.
My online challenger came up with a fascinating idea involving my peers: “I think critics should be traded to other cities so we can get fresh opinions on the local dining scene.” Maybe the reader doesn’t know I regularly eat away from my home base for the Travel section and report from the road for my Postcard From Tom column, the archives for which are at www.washingtonpost.com/travel.