Monthly Archive: April 2017

Korean study finds 2 in 10 students hard of hearing

Photo credit: Republic of Korea licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

and, sadly, that school checkups failed to identify adolescents with hearing loss.  Korea Biomedical Review reports that “[i]nadequate hearing tests done by schools have been unable to find many teens with hearing problems resulting from the portable audio system and frequent visits to Internet cafes.”  The results call into question “statistics at Korea’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) and school tests conducted in 2010.”

The implications are significant:

The [study] found that 12.7 percent of seventh-grade students and 10.4 percent of 10th-grade students fell into the World Health Organization’s category of hearing loss (cannot hear at 15 decibels). When the high frequency is included, 17.9 percent of the 7th graders and 16.5 percent of 10th graders belong to the category of possible noise-induced hearing loss.

By contrast, school tests conducted in 2010 only found 5.4% of students with hearing loss.

The researchers cautioned that “[h]earing impairment can affect a student’s academic performance and can continue to create barriers to communication in social life and the workplace,” adding that “[t]he social cost of neglecting this problem can reach up to 72.6 billion won ($63.6 million).”

Meanwhile, in the U.S., are hearing exams required in primary schools?  They should be, because regular hearing exams would identify children at risk of hearing loss and would make children aware of the importance of protecting their hearing.

Is it too late to save the orcas?

Wanyee Li, Toronto Metro, reports that researchers are concerned about the state of the health of the 78 remaining orcas of the Salish Sea orca population.  “The killer whales are declining for a variety of reasons ranging from infection, starvation, and conflict with large ships, both head-on and from the noise pollution they emit.”  Researchers say they know what to do to save these animals, but the problem is finding the political will to do it.

Kim Dun, an oceans specialist with  World Wildlife Fund Canada, said that “noise pollution is among the biggest threats to the whales,” because a “noisy environment that makes it harder for the whales to do what they need to do to survive.”  The combination of threats is enough “to choke the iconic animals until there are not enough whales to keep the population alive.”

In related news, recordings show that baby humpback whales and their mothers “whisper” just in case killer whales are nearby.  Ecologists studying the humpbacks say that this determination highlights the need to regulate ocean noise, because the discovery “suggests that human-produced machinery sounds could be particularly harmful to calves and their mothers.”

 

Yeah, this will happen

I believe I can fly.   Photo credit: sv1ambo CC by 2.0

In “Uber’s Flying Car Chief On Noise Pollution And The Future Of Sky Taxis.,” Fast Company tells us that Uber has a shiny new thing to distract its billionaire investors from its extraordinary burn rate and man-child CEO.  What is this game changer?  FLYING CARS! No really, they are coming and Uber is on it. Fast Company’s Sean Captain writes that “Uber is taking the technology seriously and this week it takes another step forward with a summit meeting that lays out its vision.”  A vision that surely will make up for all of the bad press Uber has garnered in the last couple of months.

After rolling our eyes at the thought of “an urban flying taxi system” somehow maneuvering through Manhattan without killing anyone, we focused on the claim of Uber’s Flying Car Chief, Mark Moore, that “the slower-spinning electric motors will keep noise to a hum.” “What were (sic) looking at is, in the next several years, being able to bring experimental aircraft into and test them in the relevant environment of the city,” says Moore, who fails to mention that Uber had to stop its self-driving car program in California because they were operating their test vehicles without proper permits.

So back to noise. Captain tells us that “Uber plans to use electric VTOL planes that briefly tilt their wings and propellers up to take off vertically like drones, then tilt them forward to fly forward.” Uber is opting for planes because helicopters are too noisy. Moore assures us that Uber’s planes “will be higher-pitched..blending into the hum of car traffic in cities rather than rumbling on over a longer distance and rattling windows.” Then a discussion follows about the difference between helicopter blades and airplane blades, with Moore asserting that plane propellers are “as much as 32 times quieter.” “That’s where the magic happens,” says Moore.  Hey everyone, Uber’s flying care are going to be quiet because of magic!

Sadly, there are naysayers who counter Moore’s rosy view. Says Brien Seeley, founder of the Sustainable Aviation Foundation, “the sound of a plane or helicopter has to be below 50 decibels, about the volume of a conversation at home, at a distance of 40 meters from its landing area.” Why? Because “[o]therwise either the noise will annoy neighbors or the airport will have to be too big to create a buffer.” Seeley has proposed a competition to develop air taxis “that meet the 50-dB at 40 meters target.”  A competition?  Surely we will have a quiet air taxi in no time! Or maybe not–Seeley describes the development effort as a “Herculean challenge.”

The article then focuses on Uber’s “mini-airports, called vertiports (complete with fast battery charging),” that will be put on top of buildings “to minimize the noise.” And there is a discussion about gridlock. All of this while Uber is effectively out of the self-driving car market because of the California snafu discussed above, and that little matter of Google’s Waymo lawsuit against Uber for allegedly stealing its self-driving technology, which Wired suggests could “kill Uber’s future and send execs to prison.”

We will believe in Uber’s magical noise-free airplane taxis after Uber makes an actual profit.

Update: Noise aside, Popular Mechanics offers “6 Reasons Why Uber’s Flying Taxis Are a Mirage.”

 

 

 

Well, here’s one way to deal with a noisy world

Image courtesy of Knops

 

Introducing “Knops – The volume button for your ears.” What are Knops exactly? According to their Kickstarter page:

Knops are acoustic adjustable hearing solutions that reduce noise in four steps. No electronics, comfortable to use and easy to carry.

Essentially Knops are adjustable earplugs that allow you to increase and decrease the amount of sound filtering you need for any given situation. If they work as promised, they could be really useful for someone who is exposed to different soundscapes in the course of a day (e.g., a quiet home, noisy gym, chatty workplace, and loud restaurant). What makes Knops interesting is that the Kickstarter story suggests that hearing protection was a motivator and not just being the master of your personal soundscape.

Knops are on offer for €58 ($62) during the Kickstarter pledge phase, with a “normal” price of €99 ($107.50).  It’s unclear how many people will be willing to part with about $100 for a pair of adjustable earplugs, but as of 10:00 p.m. EST on April 24th they have $137,386 pledged in their Kickstarter campaign, which is $100,000 over their $32,532 goal.

How to make an effective noise complaint

Photo credit: George Miller

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

Mad enough to take your noise complaint to city hall? Be prepared. It’s essential to present well-organized factual evidence that will convince your mayor or city council members that noise is “much more than a nuisance,” it’s a public health problem. Your case must be based on facts, precedents, examples from other communities, and solutions that are practical and enforceable.

One organization you can rely on for guidance is GrowNYC, a great resource to help you build your case. If you’re surprised that New York City has an effective noise control program, don’t be. “The city that never sleeps” has made steady progress toward becoming a quieter, more livable place. But it only happened because impassioned citizens worked with former mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with his environmental commissioner and staff, who supported the idea that “quality of life” in New York City needed to include peace and quiet. In 2009, the City rolled-out a new noise control code that is being studied by communities all over the world.

The battle isn’t over even though it has been going on for decades. Case in point: the legendary Arline Bronzaft, PhD, who has worked through five successive NYC mayors. Dr. Bronzaft, who is a founding member of the Quiet Coalition, has been an irresistible force at GrowNYC. She’s a scientist who is familiar with the laws governing noise, and she knows her stuff—particularly how to integrate research into her arguments. At the GrowNYC website you’ll find abundant resources—many written by Dr. Bronzaft–that can help you build a strong body of evidence and precedents to support noise control measures in your own community. Happy reading!

New York City isn’t the only place to look. You might also consider Portland, Oregon, or South Hampton, Long Island or any of a growing number of communities where mayors and town councils—spurred on by citizens–have been working to achieve peace and quiet for residents and visitors.

Originally posted at The Quiet Coalition.

Mapping the Sounds of New York City

The National Institutes of Health’s “It’s A Noisy Planet” program has posted information about a group of scientists leading an innovative project, Sounds of New York City (SONYC). SONYC is a five-year research project, funded by grants from New York University’s Center for Urban Sound and Progress, Ohio State University’s School of Engineering, and the National Science Foundation, in which “[r]esearchers will create maps of sounds through sophisticated technology, big data analysis, and citizen reporting.”

During the first phase of the project, which was launched in late 2016, approximately 100 sensors will be installed on public buildings around Manhattan and Brooklyn. “The sensors will record snippets of audio, about 10 seconds each, during random intervals,” and “[d]ifferent types of street noise, such as jackhammers, sirens, music, yelling, and barking, and seasonal sounds such as air conditioners, leaf blowers, and snowplows, will be recorded.”  In the second phase, the “sensors will transmit data about the time and day of sounds and provide an estimate of the sound level.”

In the end it is hoped that the project could contribute “to creating a quieter city” and help reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss.

Click here for more information about SONYC.

 

The natural world isn’t necessarily quiet or peaceful

Meet some of the world’s noisiest animals. They had me at synalpheus pinkfloydi, “a newly discovered species of pistol, or snapping shrimp, which uses its large pink claw to create a noise so loud it can kill small fish.”  How loud?  Try 210 decibels, which may be enough to kill a man as well.

Link via Hyperacusis Research.

Remember all those concerts you went to?

does, and he still is a regular concert goer since he’s been a music journalist for more than 30 years. He saw a lot of great shows, but he also learned the hard way that loud concerts take their toll. And he shares his hard-won knowledge in his excellent article, “You’re Losing Hearing Faster Than You Think.”

Browne starts his piece with a discussion about the increase in hearing loss, stating that it is “likely due to a constant assault of noise” and adding that we have “become so accustomed to blaring sound” that our definition of what is loud has changed. He interviews Robert Jackler, chair of otolaryngology at Stanford, who asks, “Are we going to see people lose their hearing at an earlier age, and lose it more severely as time goes by?,” and emphatically answers, “Yes.”

Browne talks about his concern for his own hearing as well as his daughter’s, adding that for as long as he knew him, his father wore a hearing aid. Browne looks at the stigma attached to hearing aids, noting that there is no stigma attached to wearing eyeglasses. Along with the stigma, there are the psychological manifestations of hearing loss, namely isolation and depression. This discussion follows Browne’s visit to an audiologist and his “sobering” results–a diagnosis of sloping high-frequency loss.

In light of his audiology exam, Browne’s goal for himself was to prevent further damage. To do that, his audiologist suggests two options: The first was to get fitted ear plugs to wear at loud events, and the second, which Browne found depressing, was that he consider getting hearing aids.

In the end, Browne opts for the ear plugs, “for now,” and he lists six things everyone can do to protect their hearing, including downloading a decibel meter and wearing ear plugs. To read the entire article and see the full list of protective steps, click the second link above.

 

 

April 26 is International Noise Awareness Day

April 26 marks the 22nd annual celebration of “International Noise Awareness Day,” an event born in the U.S. that has grown into an international occasion. Congratulations to the event’s founder, Nancy Nadler, for her pioneering work and to other Americans who have long contributed to and supported it, including The Quiet Coalition (TQC) founding member, Arline Bronzaft PhD.

Commenting on the history and significance of International Noise Awareness Day, Dr. Bronzaft said recently:

In 1992, I worked with Nancy Nadler, now the Deputy Executive Director of Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC), when she created the Noise Center and four years later I was part of the CHC group who introduced International Noise Awareness Day (INAD) worldwide. In New York City, INAD was recognized with a Mayoral Proclamation at City Hall, poster contests in schools speaking to the dangers of noise, vans provided by CHC to assess hearing of New Yorkers and panel discussions on noise throughout the city. One year, the Borough President of Brooklyn feted the children of the winning Noise Poster Contest, as well as their parents, at a Borough Hall reception.

In the U.S., International Noise Awareness Day precedes the month long celebration of May as “Better Hearing and Speech Month,” led by the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders, the American Speech Language Hearing Association, and other scientific, professional, and governmental organizations.

The European Acoustics Association has issued a statement that describes their goals for International Noise Awareness Day 2017:

The European Acoustics Association (EAA) participates in the celebration every year by a series of events addressed to the whole society, with special emphasis to young people who are among the most sensitive persons of our society. These events have been organized so far typically by the EAA Member Societies. For 2017, the EAA decided to coordinate a wider campaign in order to raise the interest of the European citizens towards noise and its effects on the quality of life and health (the INAD 2017). EAA will collaborate with the European Commission (in particular the DG-Environment) and the European Environment Agency for promoting and coordinating specialized activities during this year, among the EAA members Societies, and the European and national authorities, the noise associations, the schools, museums, etc. in order that a wider public will receive the most accurate and scientifically correct information on noise effects.

Three TQC founding members plan to observe the 22nd Annual International Noise Awareness Day by holding an informal educational event at the Flatbush Library in Brooklyn. Arline Bronzaft, Gina Briggs, and Jeanine Botta will introduce some of the Brooklyn Public Library’s adult and children’s books related to noise, sound, acoustics, and hearing health. Attendees will learn about an abbreviated timeline of the history of noise, become familiar with New York City’s noise code, and have a chance to learn about potential resources for addressing their own noise concerns. The event will be held from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. on April 26th, and is open to the public. The Flatbush Library is located at 22 Linden Boulevard, a few blocks from the Church Avenue train station on the B and Q lines and a few blocks Church Avenue station on the 2 and 5 lines. For more information, call the library at (718) 856-0813.

TQC’s founders hope that professionals in public health and hearing health will join with researchers and citizens representing the 48 million Americans who suffer from hearing disorders to mark both International Noise Awareness Day and Better Hearing and Speech Month.

So what can you do to mark International Noise Awareness Day 2017 and Better Hearing and Speech Month? Check out some of the participants, public events, and resources.

Originally posted on The Quiet Coalition blog.