Why restaurants became so loud — and how to fight back

“I can’t hear you.”

When the Line Hotel opened in Washington, DC, last December, the cocktail bars, gourmet coffee shops, and restaurants that fill its cavernous lobby drew a lot of buzz. Housed in a century-old church, the space was also reputedly beautiful.

My first visit in February confirmed that the Line was indeed as sleek as my friends and restaurant critics had suggested. There was just one problem: I wanted to leave almost as soon as I walked in. My ears were invaded by a...

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