Monthly Archive: November 2017

‘Tis the season…for nonstop Xmas music

Photo credit: Jim Moore licensed under CC BY 2.0

But in what can only be termed a Christmas miracle, a couple of chain stores are offering respite from the annual holiday assault: AutoZone and Costco are your only sanctuaries from Christmas music this winter.  Actually, Amy X. Wang, Quartz, reports that there are two more kind souls, GameStop and WinCo Foods, that have opted to spare their customers from the endless aural assault.

And after calling around, Wang prepared a list showing when various national retailers plan on turning up the Xmas volume. While most retailers exercised some restraint by waiting until Thanksgiving before turning on the forced holiday cheer, Best Buy cruelly began playing Xmas tunes on October 22nd. We grieve for their employees.

Link via Greg, founder of the Soundprint app, the “Yelp for Noise!”

The open plan layout will encourage collaboration, they said

Photo credit: Elliott Brown licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Sadly, the reality is quite different: Francis Crick Institute’s £700m building ‘too noisy to concentrate.’

Robert Booth, The Guardian, writes about the £700 million “cathedral to biomedical science” that was designed with the goal of having “scientists work together to make breakthroughs in cancer, neuroscience, pandemics and genetics.” Unfortunately, following the herd lemming-like has resulted in the following:

A year after opening, some of the 1,250 people working at the Crick Institute, in its central London laboratory, have complained that the open plan design, intended to assist informal collaboration, means some areas set aside for thinking and writing up research are too noisy.

When will this open plan madness end? People who think for a living need some quiet. Not library quiet–if such a thing even exists anymore–but the kind of quiet that allows them to concentrate. You know, so they can do their work. And mind you, the work the researchers and scientists are doing at the Crick Institute is important stuff, not another startup making an app to do something no one really needs.

In any event, we can think of 700,000,000 reasons why the open plan concept needs to die. Stop buying into the collaboration myth and let people do their work.

Hearing Loss Hits A Younger Generation

Photo credit: flattop341 licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Hearing loss is commonly seen only as a problem for older people, not younger ones.

As I have written before, it’s seen as part of normal aging even when the scientific evidence shows that good hearing should be preserved into old age.

But when children start listening to music with headphones or earbuds before they start kindergarten, and those in their teens and twenties listen to personal music players for hours each day, earlier hearing loss is inevitable.

I think there already is an epidemic of noise-induced hearing loss that will only get worse in coming decades, when those children reach their 40s or 50s.

Media observers don’t seem to be as concerned as I am, but this article in the Chicago Tribune gets it right.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and 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.

Google defeated by Brooklyn

Photo credit: dumbonyc licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

But the Pixel buds weren’t a total failure, as the duo found the translator worked better in quiet rooms. Which is great if you are traveling to a mythical land of quiet and the local language is preloaded in the accompanying app, but not so much for the real world.
Maybe instead of relying on some hardware and an app to do the heavy lifting, one could struggle with a phrase book and charm/offend the locals like people have been doing forever? Personally, we think there shouldn’t be a “tech solution” for everything. That said, hey Google, how about working on bringing some quiet to city streets? It’s in your self-interest, after all.

Finally, some good noise news


Photo credit: Kevin.B licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

NY hospitals testing ‘ambient’ ambulance sirens. Why? Because of the noise complaints, of course. The ear-crushing squeals of New York City ambulance sirens ricochet off of hard building surfaces, making otherwise pleasant residential streets into hellish echo chambers.

So what do these new sirens sound like? If you’ve ever traveled to Europe, you probably heard the loud but surprisingly tolerable two-toned sirens favored there. If not–or you need a reminder–this is what you can expect to hear [NOTE: If you are sound sensitive, lower the volume before listening]:

And here’s the hellish traditional siren the newer two-tone ambulances may make obsolete (if we’re lucky):

Here’s hoping hospitals and fire departments nationwide quickly move past the testing stage into the replacement stage.

Dear god, no!

It will be like this, but horrible | Photo credit: Cliff licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Noise Curmudgeon alerts us to the horribly misguided marketing idea–because it must be the marketing department that’s behind this–that is the Nissan Canto. You see, electric cars tend to be quiet, so some sound must be engineered so that they can be heard by blind people listening for aural clues, other pedestrians, animals, etc.  Rather than engineering a traditional car engine sound for the Canto, Nissan has decided to be clever and will torment us with a “singing car.”  And by singing they mean making a variable high pitched annoying drone that will drive poeple mad.

Hear it for yourself:

Oh, that’s not so bad, you may be thinking. Then imagine a street filled with “singing” cars.

My god.

As our natural spaces become increasingly less quiet

Samantha Cole, Motherboard, asks, “What Will the Outdoors Sound Like in the Future?”  Cole, who lives in Brooklyn, starts her piece with a descripton of her solo trip to Joshua Tree, “to get some solitude and silence away from the city, immersed in the quiet of the high desert.” But after spending a sleepless night “on a high-alert adrenaline rush, spinning around in the small bed at every noise that pricked out of the silence,” Cole realized that her ears had adjusted to the quiet.

On her return to the city, she reached out to Kurt Fristrup, chief of the Science and Technology Branch at the National Park Service Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division, which deploys sound monitoring systems at national parks and helps the staff meet their soundscape needs.

What follows is an interesting interview, where Cole and Fristrup talk about “how our ears work in the wild,” human noise pollution’s impact on wildlife, and how the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division is working to make America’s remaining wild spaces less noisy.

And watch this National Park Service Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division video on soundscapes:

Helicopter manufacturer aims to keep noise down

inside the cabin.  Mary Grady, The Robb Report, writes:

A helicopter solves the problem of many travelers—how to avoid traffic in a crowded city center and get directly to your destination, or to your private jet or yacht, as efficiently as possible. But they’re noisy inside, and passengers often wear headsets for the duration of the trip, to ease communication in the cabin. Mecaer Aviation Group says it has solved that problem, with its sound-reducing technology called SILENS (Sound Intensity Level Enhanced Noise System), which reduces the noise in the cabin to the point where travelers can ditch their headsets.

No doubt people who insist on traveling by helicopter are thrilled.

So what does the article say about Mecaer’s efforts to reduce exterior noise?

Nothing.  The rest of the world, apparently, does not matter.



Madrid’s noisy nightlife is keeping residents awake

Photo credit: Jorge Díaz licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This interesting report documents complaints about noise in Spain’s capital city, Madrid.

It turns out that in Madrid making noise when and where one wants has an aspect of political expression that may be present in other cities and other countries but has special relevance in Spain. Franco’s Minister of the Interior coined the phrase, “[t]he street is mine.”  And the police dispersed any group of more than three people.

When democracy returned to Spain, leaders in Madrid made a lively street scene part of their newfound freedom. The mayor coined the phrase, “Madrid nunca duerme”- Madrid never sleeps.

And now that’s a problem.

All regulations restrict someone’s freedom. But if we are to live in increasingly dense and crowded environments, people can’t be free to do something that adversely affects others. After all, everyone must sleep sometime.

Smoking may be a useful example. People in the U.S. and Europe still have the right to smoke, but they can’t smoke where others have to smell and breathe their smoke.

And that’s how it should be with noise. People should have to right to deafen themselves with personal music players, or attend rock concerts, or patronize noisy clubs. They can ride loud motorcycles, too, but not where others can hear them.

Because people shouldn’t have the right to disrupt the lives of others with their noise.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and 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.