I definitely noticed the increase of interior noise in London in the late 90s due to similar points of design - lots of glass and varnished pine (and also interiors stripped down to concrete in some cases). None of the comfortable soft wood and carpet and wallpaper atmosphere that you get in more old-fashioned restaurants. In the latter sort of place you can be packed in with dozens of others in a small space and still hear what the person on the other side of the table is saying.
I have a suspicion that there is also a difference in the frequencies of sound. I have a lot of trouble hearing when there is a lot of high frequency noise, to the point where putting my fingers in my ears means I can hear more, and that kicks in when I go (increasingly infrequently) to high-noise venues.