Monthly Archive: May 2016

A robust approach to noise by a forward thinking city council:

Don’t suffer in silence: Noise Action Week.

In support of Noise Action Week, the Chelmsford City Council, using data from noise complaints, will produce noise heat maps of the city and intend to use that information to target hotspot areas.  In addition to visiting the hotspots and doing outreach in those areas, the city council has launched a noise app that will allow residents to make a recording of noise that is causing a disturbance and send it direct to a case officer for review.  It will be interesting to see if the mobile app gets traction and is useful in reducing noise complaints.

Apparently this past week was Noise Action Week in the UK, a campaign coordinated by Environmental Protection UK, which is a charity that provides expert policy analysis and information on air quality, land quality, and noise.  Noise Action Week supports groups, agencies, and services that are involved in reducing the cost of noise to health and quality of life.

Toronto noise activists fight city hall:

Better enforcement needed for noise complaints.

The Toronto Noise Coalition (TNC), unhappy with insufficient enforcement of noise bylaws, released a survey that found that “72% of Torontoians are interested to some degree in the issue of noise pollution.”  The survey, which TNC commissioned, also found that “12% of respondents had filed a noise complaint with the city” and that “two-thirds of complainants were unhappy with the response from the city.”

Part of the reason for the unhappiness, no doubt, is the city’s response to the complaints:

Mark Sraga, of Toronto’s municipal licencing and standards department, says there are 200 officers available to deal with general complaints.  But noise complaints may take a back seat to others in terms of response time.

Sraga added that, “[w]e prioritize, yes.  Life and safety, life and death, those are priority issues.  Noise is not one of those life and safety issues.”  Except that it is.  As Dr. David McKeown, the city’s chief medical officer of heath, notes, “noise causes sleep disturbances, which are associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and viral illnesses.”

Long and short, city responses to noise–and not just Toronto–fall short because most city officials don’t see noise as an important issue.  Which means that citizens have to lead this issue and demand that some resources be made available to address noise pollution, which affects quality of life and health.

 

Jersey City’s “Boom Box Ban” lifted

Jersey City council gives final OK to new law targeting noise.

Does this mean Jersey City is going to be an urban hellhole, plagued by eardrum blasting noise 24/7?  No.  The new law, a model ordinance already blessed by the state, lifts the ban on boom boxes, which may have been unenforceable, and, instead, requires anyone playing music outside to make sure that the music “is not “plainly audible” from a distance of 50 feet during the day (25 feet after 10 p.m.).”  The article does not give us the definition of “plainly audible,” nor explain how it will be determined.

An earlier article highlights other changes under the revised ordinance, which includes a ban on the use of power tools on a residential property before 8:00 a.m., a requirement that snow blowers have mufflers or sound reduction devices, and a ban on animals “howling, yelping, barking, squawking, etc.” for more than five minutes without interruption.  But an earlier version of the revised ordinance which would have changed the time that permitted construction could start on weekdays to 8:00 a.m. was punted and the existing 7:00 a.m. start time was retained.  And the revised ordinance has some teeth, as it allows a certified noise-control officer the authority to issue fines of up to $1,000 for violations.

Whether the revised ordinance satisfies all constituents remains to be seen.  Kudos to the Jersey City city council for recognizing the detrimental impact of noise and for attempting to limit its effect on residents and visitors.

 

 

Why everyone–except the bean counters and upper management–hates open plan offices:

When All’s Not Quiet On the Office Front, Everyone Suffers.

Click the link to learn the 12 ways that workplace noise affects worker well-being and productivity.  While the executive team, safely ensconced in their offices, may not care about worker well-being, productivity is another thing altogether.

For a bit of background on the use of open-floor plans and some advice on how to make them better, see Open-Plan Offices Are the Worst, Here’s how to make them slightly less terrible.

 

 

 

You can’t escape noise pollution, even in our national parks:

Modern Noise Pollution Still Follows Us Around.

The National Parks Service has created two maps: one that tracks noise pollution throughout the United States, and another that maps what the country would sound like without humans and our noise.   And what do the maps show?  Dan Mennitt, the park service researcher behind the maps, states:

There’s nowhere in the lower 48 where you can sit in a national park or any other natural area and not hear aircraft.  There’s no such thing as a noise-free day anywhere.

If you are looking for quiet, Gordon Hempton thinks he may have found the quietest square inch in the U.S.

CDC addresses noise exposure and health

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted content on its website addressing Environmental Noise Exposure and Health.  This content looks at a number of issues, including what is hearing loss, sources of environmental noise, and the public health burden from noise and hearing loss.

Under a section titled “Recommendations and Guidelines,” the CDC discusses noise exposure limits.  The CDC notes that the Environmental Protection Agency identified 70 dB as the average exposure limit to environmental noise for the general public, as did the World Health Organization (WHO), which “recommend[ed] that noise exposure levels should not exceed 70 dB over a 24-hour period, and 85 dB over 1 hour period to avoid hearing impairment.”  Occupational noise exposure limits established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for an 8-hour workday are also mentioned.

Kudos to the CDC for posting this material on their site and giving noise exposure the attention it deserves.  Noise-induced hearing loss and other injuries are mostly preventable, and the failure to educate the public on appropriate exposure limits is significant.  As the CDC states, the “National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that in 2014, an estimated 21.0% of adults aged ≥18 years had difficulty following a conversation amid background noise, 11.2% had ringing in the ears [ed. note: tinnitus], and 5.9% had sensitivity to everyday sounds [ed. note: hyperacusis].”   In short, noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis affect more than a third of the population of the United States.  Given the CDC’s mission to control and prevent disease and injury, one hopes this is the first of many steps taken to educate the public, advise federal, state, and local governments,  and rein in a preventable health epidemic.

 

Noise causes most hyperacusis, tinnitus, and hearing loss, so

Why Is It “Uncool” To Protect Your Hearing?

The author of the linked piece was disturbed by a tweet from “a well known rock magazine, Kerrang,” and responded, as follows:

Kerrang-Tweet-1024x762

Kerrang! Magazine did not respond to Restored Hearing’s tweet, but people in the hearing community did, which led to an interesting and thoughtful discussion about why hearing injuries are treated so dismissively when no one (presumably) would be openly snarky about injuries to sight.  After all, there is no effective cure or treatment for most hearing injuries, the consequences of which are more significant than having to ask someone to speak up.  Rather, hearing injuries can dramatically affect one’s quality of life.  As Bryan Pollard, president of Hyperacusis Research Limited, Inc., stated:

‘Hyperacusis,’ the evil spawn of tinnitus, is a word you do not want in your vocabulary or your medical history. It means that noise = pain. All it takes is one loud night out to spark a lifetime of regret.

In the end, the reason for the flippancy is a lack of education.  How many people even heard of hyperacusis or tinnitus or know what they are until and unless they or someone they know is diagnosed?  That most hyperacusis and tinnitus is noise induced, thus preventable, means we need to confront the Kerrangs of the world and explain to them that today’s snarky tweet may lead to tomorrow’s lingering regret.

Thanks to Bryan Pollard for the link.  Bryan is the founder and president of Hyperacusis Research Limited, a non-profit charity dedicated to funding research on what causes hyperacusis with the goal of developing effective treatments.

Where Is the Quietest Square Inch in the U.S.?

According to an acoustic ecologist, the country’s quietest spot is in a corner of Washington State.

It was clear that the answer would not be any inhabited place in the U.S., and certainly not any city.  In fact, the author notes that:

Many of you may live close enough to expanses of nature to have a sense of quiet – but few places are completely immune.  Air traffic is hard to escape, and by some accounts, noise pollution affects more than 88 percent of the contiguous United States.

The article focuses on the work of Gordon Hempton, “an acoustic ecologist who has spent more than 30 years studying the quietest places in the country – not places free of sound, but free of man-made noises.”   He has determined that the quietest square inch of nature in the U.S. can be found at Hoh Rain Forest at Olympic National Park in Washington State “on top of a moss-covered log at 47° 51.959N, 123° 52.221W.”  Why focus on this one square inch?  Because, as Hempton explains, “man-made noises can be heard from 20 miles away.  So in fact, by protecting an inch, he says, it’s really preserving 1,000 square miles of silence.”

Click the link to learn about One Square Inch, A Sanctuary for Silence at Olympic National Park.

For more on Gordon Hempton and his life’s work: Soundtracker the Movie.

 

 

What can be done when businesses create noise?

According to the Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park’s sound mitigation report requirement for businesses that play live or recorded music may have been well intended but may miss the mark: Noise issues impact downtown Asbury Park nightlife.

The town’s approach will need tweaking, but at least Asbury Park realizes that a balance has to be met:

“We need something to manage the sound levels, but not something as severe as this current ordinance. A municipality has to protect a balance between different kinds of entertainment experiences, whether you want a quiet bar or dining experience, are at the movies or at a gallery, or want to enjoy live music or a louder bar atmosphere,”  said Michele Alonso, director of planning and redevelopment, in a statement. “Unchecked noise in the downtown — whether music or general crowd noise — affects other businesses as well as residents.”

In the end, that balance has to recognize that one man’s music is another man’s noise.