After Cuba can the U.S. still claim noise is just an “annoyance”?

Photo credit: Stevenbedrick licensed under CC BY 3.0

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

Are you following the Cuba episode on “weaponized sound”? If so, here’s some additional reading.

Nobody’s certain what’s going on there. Is it a hoax? A Trumpian cover for pulling the U.S. embassy out of Havana?

No. It could be both real and very ironic….

What’s interesting to those of us who are concerned about the epidemic of noise in America and the effects of that noise on everyone’s health, is this:

The official posture of several intimidatingly large U.S. federal agencies—for example the Departments of Commerce and Transportation and the EPA—is that noise is nothing more than “annoyance.” That policy has been in place for over 35 years. But if noise is merely “annoyance” how has it been “weaponized” by some foreign adversary?

The latest speculation is that the “sonic attack” in Havana might have involved “infrasound.”

Fact is, In the U.S. infrasound is poorly understood precisely because there’s been so little funding to research it. Why? Because if noise doesn’t matter, if it’s merely “annoyance,” then just ignore it. And so the U.S. has ignored noise for decades, but that may be coming to an end.

Perhaps the decades of ignoring noise and its impact on health will now change and researchers will have to unscramble some wily adversary’s “secrets” because they appear to be in use against us. Ironically, by ignoring the importance of sound and noise for nearly four decades, the U.S. has fallen behind and will have to scramble to catch up.

But that’s an old story, isn’t it?

In addition to serving as vice chair of the The Quiet Coalition, David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: The Acoustics Research Council, American National Standards Institute Committee S12, Workgroup 44, The Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Working Group—a partner of the American Hospital Association. He is the lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0 (2012, Springer-Verlag), a contributor to the National Academy of Engineering report “Technology for a Quieter America,” and to the US-GSA guidance “Sound Matters”, and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics (LARA) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He recently retired from the board of directors of the American Tinnitus Association. A graduate of the University of California/Berkeley with graduate degrees from Cornell University, he is a frequent organizer of and speaker at professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

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