Silencity

The Truth About Noise

Latest Posts

Readers react to Austrialian piece on restaurant noise

Photo credit: James Palinsad licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

A few days ago the Adelaide InDaily ran a column by food writer Rainer Jozeps about Adelaide “plague of shouty cafes and restaurants.”

And readers have responded.

Both Jozeps’ article and the responses could have been written about restaurant noise in any major city in the English-speaking world. Simply put, restaurants have become too loud and customers actively avoid the noisier ones.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Australia, but restaurant noise is also a problem in England, Scotland, and Wales, and, of course, the U.S. On the other hand, restaurants in France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal–where food and dining may be more valued–seem quieter to me.

I haven’t seen any scientific studies comparing restaurant noise in different countries, but I would welcome them and anticipate that they would confirm my less than scientific observations.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Hearing assistive devices shine at Consumer Electronics Show

Photo credit: Gb11111 licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I’ve pointed out in earlier blogs to a once-in-a-generation convergence of technology, deregulation, and finance, that is fueling a boom in new hearing assistive devices. That convergence showed up this week at the gigantic Consumer Electronics Show as a handful of new products worth looking at.

This year’s offerings point to a growing cornucopia of new hearables products aimed at our ears—for the first time in decades. And that is a positive indicator that the long moribund, underinvested space of hearing health is attracting global attention. Which is good news for researchers, manufacturers, and consumers.

You’ve already read here about our partner, Richard Neitzel, PhD, from the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, who’s working with Apple Inc. on Apple’s new iPhone/iWatch noise-warning app. And you’ve read here about SoundPrint and iHearU and our partner, Antonella Radicchi’s Hush City app and others. We wish them all success!

At this rate it’s going to be hard to keep up! For some of us it’s pure excitement to watch the acoustical/hearing products industry come alive again after forty years in the doldrums!

David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Dining out is about more than the food on your plate

Photo credit: bruce mars from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article by Cape Gazette food writer Bob Yesbek discusses the many different aspects of restaurant noise. Yesbek notes that complaints about restaurant noise are among the most frequent he receives, and discusses some of the science behind complaints about restaurant noise. He also reports that some restaurants are concerned enough about their patrons’ dining comfort to try to deal with noise issues.

I believe that if enough people complain to enough restaurant owners and managers, it’s possible that restaurants will become quieter. Based on my experience with getting smoke-free restaurants, though, I think complaining to one’s local elected officials to get quiet restaurant ordinances passed will be quicker and more effective.

Because noise isn’t just a nuisance. Noise is unwanted and/or harmful sound.

And restaurant noise is a disability rights issue for people with hearing loss and other auditory disorders.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

American Girl’s 2020 doll of the year

Photo credit: Courtesy of American Girl

by Caroline Masia

On December 31, 2019, Good Morning America announced to the world the American Girl Doll of the year for 2020. Her name is Joss Kendrick, a surfer gal and a cheerleader from Southern California. At first glance, she might look like your typical California girl with beautiful auburn hair, a fit surfer body and beautifully tanned skin. But Joss is different from the other American Girl Dolls. She has hearing aids that you can clearly see circling around her ears and she is proudly showing them off.

When I first saw the Good Morning America annoucement, my heart leapt and I felt proud of the American Girl Doll company for coming out with a doll who has hearing loss. I have hearing loss. I was born deaf and got my first cochlear implant at sixteen months and my second when I was seven years old. Growing up, there was no doll in the market that had hearing aids or cochlear implants. In fact, there was no doll out there that had any sort of differences. Instead, when I returned home from my surgery, I found that my sister had “rigged” up several of her dolls by fashioning “cochlear implants” out of buttons and other materials, so that I could have a doll that looked like me.

It is wonderful to finally have dolls that represent the population more realistically and is also commendable because American Girl is now helping to normalize differences. Everyone faces challenges. And all girls are beautiful. By creating a doll with a hearing impairment, American Girl makes that statement loud and clear!

Caroline Masia is currently in her third year at the University of Central Florida studying exceptional education. She is very active with the Jewish community on campus and is involved with the American Sign Language club. After college, Caroline hopes to teach students who are deaf or hard of hearing and help to make a difference in their lives.

Thanks to Sherilyn Adler, PhD, of the Ear Peace: Save Your Hearing Foundation, an educational nonprofit, for assisting The Quiet Coalition with this piece. TQC is proud to regard Dr. Adler and her group as partners in its work on preventing hearing loss.

Loud fitness classes compromise instructors’ voices

Photo credit: Aberdeen Proving Ground licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article in The New York Times discusses how loud fitness classes are requiring instructors to shout over the motivational music and noise from gym equipment causing vocal cord damage. The article doesn’t discuss how the loud environment causes noise-induced hearing loss in instructors or those attending the exercise classes, but that’s a problem, too. Dangerous decibels at fitness centers may lead to hearing loss.

And here’s the funny thing: as best as I can tell, there are no studies in the sports medicine or exercise physiology literature showing that loud music increases performance, in any sport or exercise activity. Everyone thinks that loud music improves athletic performance, but that’s just a myth. Music with the right beat may help exercisers maintain a rhythm in sports where that’s important, such as rowing or running, but it doesn’t appear to help one lift more weight. So both the vocal damage and the auditory damage caused by loud gym music are completely unnecessary.

Both instructors and students should remember a simple rule: if it sounds too loud, it is too loud. If they can’t carry on a normal conversation without straining to speak or to be heard, the ambient noise is above 75 A-weighted decibels*, and that’s loud enough to cause auditory damage.

*A-weighting adjusts sound measurements to reflect the frequencies heard in human speech.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

2020 is the International Year of Sound

Image by Education and Outreach Coordinator Acoustical Society of America, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The profession of acoustical science and engineering is a branch of physics. In the U.S., the Acoustical Society of America, for example, is a member of the American Institute of Physics. Physicists don’t communicate with the public much, but a bunch of the world’s leading acoustical science societies have declared 2020 to be “The International Year of Sound.” a “global initiative to highlight the importance of sound and related sciences and technologies for all in society.”

Watch for events in your area. For those of us concerned about the effects of noise/sound (acoustical phenomena) on health and public health, this looks interesting—even significant.

David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Noise and the increased risk of serious stroke

Photo credit: Aleksandar Pasaric from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report in Science Daily describes a fascinating study done in Barcelona. The study found that patients who lived in noisy areas suffered worse strokes than those who didn’t. Patients who lived in quieter areas near green zones, on the other hand, had less severe strokes.

Only this report and the abstract, published in Environmental Research, are available outside a pay wall, so I can’t comment on the scientific methods used in the study, but Environmental Research is a well regarded, peer-reviewed scientific journal. And the study results are consistent with past experience.

Hypertension is a well-known risk factor for stroke, with higher blood pressures being associated with more severe strokes. The Barcelona report supports other studies, including human, animal, and epidemiology studies, showing that noise exposure increases blood pressure due to autonomic nervous system and hormonal stress responses to noise. I suspect that is the likely explanation for the new study’s findings.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

How to handle an anti-social neighbor with a lawn mower

Photo credit: Sepp Vei has released this photo into the public domain

by G.M. Briggs

Call the cops and haul him to jail, apparently. According to the Washington Post, one Florida man spent Christmas Eve in jail for disturbing the peace with his lawn mower. That may seem harsh, but if you read past the weird news lede, you’ll see that Robert Wayne Miller of Zephyrhills, Florida, earned his night in the pokey. Namely, he allegedly was using his riding mower at night for hours on end, making it impossible for his neighbors to sleep. And according to one neighbor, Miller used used the riding mower “for transportation at times,” adding “that it [wasn’t] actually capable of cutting grass.”

It seems pretty clear from the story that Miller enjoyed tormenting his neighbors. So while calling the cops to deal with an obnoxious neighbor should be the last resort, when you’re dealing with someone who is using noise as a weapon, there are few other (nonviolent/dangerous) options.

Here’s hoping Miller’s neighbors finally got a good night’s rest.

Thanks to Jeanine Botta for the link.

Zillow tracks noisy cities and neighborhoods

Photo credit: Daniel X. O’Neil licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report in Atlanta Agent magazine, directed at the real estate industry, looks at a report by Zillow, a real estate site, that identifies Atlanta’s noisiest neighborhoods.

I wondered if Zillow tracked noise for other cities, too. The answer is yes, Zillow has a report that looks at the noise level of over 900 cities nationwide.

The only problem is that Zillow’s method is to estimate the noise level based on the National Park Service noise maps. That is, Zillow doesn’t measure actual noise levels.

I would suggest that Zillow might want to use the Department of Commerce’s transportation noise maps instead, since transportation noise is a major problem in many parts of the country. Transportation noise includes road traffic noise, aircraft noise, and railroad noise. Zillow adds that a lot of urban noise also comes from ambulances for those living near hospitals, and from sports stadiums.

Real estate professionals advise prospective home buyers to check out their properties at various times of the day. A quiet residential street may become a busy commuter cut-through during the morning rush hour, for example, or the preferred way home for parents picking up children at the end of the school day.

Renting isn’t the same long-term commitment as buying, but renters may also want to check out noise levels before signing a lease.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

An introduction to acoustic ecology

Photo credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article in Physics Today is a wonderful introduction to acoustic ecology, “a field that examines how animals, including humans, use information obtained from the environment in different aspects of their lives.”

Animals, including humans, evolved in a naturally quiet environment, and noise is harmful to them. The author of the article, Megan McKenna, an acoustic biologist at the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division of the National Park Service in Colorado, writes “[a] common definition of noise is unwanted sounds that interfere with a signal of interest.”

That’s a good definition, but noise is actually harmful to animals, with that harm best studied in people. Like secondhand smoke, noise is both a nuisance and a health hazard, and there are nine evidence-based noise levels that affect human health and function.

I prefer the new definition of noise presented at the American Public Health Association meeting in November 2019 and at the Acoustical Society of America meeting in December 2019: noise is unwanted and/or harmful sound.

But whichever definition you use, we can all agree that preserving the natural acoustic environment is critical for animals and humans.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.