Monthly Archive: January 2018

Finally, restaurateurs think about how noise affects taste

Photo credit: G.M. Briggs

Betsy Andrews, SevenFiftyDaily, reports on “[n]ew research [that] is causing restaurant and bar owners to rethink noise control in their venues.” Andrews writes about Jim Meehan, a forward thinking bar owner, who “wanted a place where he could hear.” So Meehan hired Scott McNiece, the founder of the Chicago-based company Uncanned Music, who designs acoustics for restaurants.

The result was a space where “[t]he muted sound helps patrons relax and focus, not only on their companions but on Meehan’s cocktails.”  Meehan is pleased as is his business partner, Kevin Heisner, who believes noise “dings not just moods but palates.”  And Andrews dives into the world of the science of dining, introducing us to the researchers who are discovering that noise does affect taste.

But the most exciting bit of news from the piece comes at the end, when Andrews speaks to Dallas architect Rick Carrell, whose firm has designed spaces for large chain clients like Panera Bread and Starbucks. Carrell tells Andrews that, “[c]lients are very concerned with noise now. They don’t see it as a motivator like they did 10 years ago.”

Thank goodness.  It’s about time.

Click the link above to read the entire article.

Quiet’s hard to come by

Russell Wangersky, The Telegram, writes about being somewhere so quiet that he could hear two birds flying 20 feet above him.  He describes the sound their feathers made as they moved through the air–“It is a sound that almost defies description: both a swoosh and a rustle, and a hint of the sweep of a soft brush–a sound he notes he will likely never hear again. And that experience prompts his essay on sound and modern living, as he considers “how much sound there is all around us, and how that complication of noises gets ever-larger.”

Click the link to read this thoughtful essay.

 

 

New treatment for tinnitus gives hope

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report from the University of Michigan about Susan Shore PhD’s research gives hope to tinnitus sufferers that finally an effective treatment may be on the way.

Tinnitus, ringing in the ears, is most commonly caused by noise exposure, either chronic noise exposure or a one-time exposure to loud noise.

Given the causal relationship between noise exposure and both tinnitus and hyperacusis, a collapsed tolerance to usual environmental sound, many people have both. About half of those with tinnitus have significant hearing loss.

My own tinnitus developed after a one-time exposure to loud noise, so my hearing remains good. But I wish I had known that a one-time exposure to loud noise could cause symptoms the rest of my life. That’s part of the message I’m trying to get out to the world.

The other message is that both hearing loss and tinnitus are largely preventable. And certainly noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable.

Dr. Shore’s treatment is still in its experimental phase and no one can predict how much it will cost if and when it is approved by the FDA. Or, for that matter, if Medicare and private insurance programs will pay for it.

The most basic public health principle is that it’s far better, and far cheaper, to prevent illness or injury than to treat it. So while we wish Dr. Shore well, we hope those who do not yet have tinnitus, hyperacusis, or hearing loss take this sage–and free–advice:

Protect your ears! Avoid loud noise. Put in ear plugs if you can’t leave the noisy environment.

Remember, your ears are like your eyes or your knees: God only gave you two of them.

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.

Australians are in danger of hearing loss

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report from the National Acoustic Laboratory at Australia’s Macquarie University found that 1 in 10 Australians used personal listening devices (PLDs) at dangerously high volumes.

Not surprisingly, those who reported using the devices at high volumes also reported more difficulty hearing things.

Only the abstract is available without a subscription, so I can’t comment on details of the study, which would be stronger if actual hearing tests had been done on the subjects, but the final line of the abstract is one that I agree with entirely:

Although PLD use alone is not placing the majority of users at risk, it may be increasing the likelihood that individuals’ cumulative noise exposure will exceed safe levels.

And that’s the problem with studies focusing just on personal listening device use. They are only one small part of the total daily noise dose. Flamme, et al., found that 70% of adults in Kalamazoo County, Michigan received total daily noise doses exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s safe noise limit of 70 decibels time weighted average for a day. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported that almost 25% of American adults had noise-induced hearing loss, many if not most without occupational exposure.

As the CDC states, noise-induced hearing loss is preventable. No noise, no hearing loss.

Protect your ears now and you won’t need hearing aids later.

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.

Human noise takes its toll on birds

Sarah Kaplan, The Washington Post, reports that some birds are so stressed by noise pollution that “it looks like they have PTSD.”  Kaplan writes that scientists researching birds living near noisy natural gas treatment facilities in New Mexico discovered from sampling the birds’ blood that they had “the same physiological symptoms as a human suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.” Said Rob Guralnick, associate curator of biodiversity informatics at the Florida Museum of Natural History, “[n]oise is causing birds to be in a situation where they’re chronically stressed . . . and that has really huge health consequences for birds and their offspring.”

And humans?  The researchers took their findings to Christopher Lowry, a stress physiologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who was not surprised by the results–“it’s what you would expect in a creature exposed to prolonged, persistent strain.”  So does the study’s findings have implications about the effect of noise on human health?  Kaplan writes:

To Lowry, the fact that humans respond to stress in the same manner as animals as distantly related as birds suggests that this response is ancient and deeply ingrained. And it raises questions about how humans handle exposure to unrelenting noise. The mother bluebird that nested near a compressor and was unable to leave when the sound became unbearable may not be so different from a low-income human family forced to rent an apartment near a flight path or loud industrial site.

Ultimately, being under an aural assault is bad for any living thing’s health and well-being.  Says Lowry, “[t]here’s evidence that being able to have a full auditory experience is essential for optimal health in both species.”

 

Eric Clapton has tinnitus and is losing his hearing

 

Photo credit: Majvdl licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

And so he told BBC Radio while promoting his new documentary, “Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars.” Every pop culture site has reported some version of this story, but not one asks why or how he has tinnitus and hearing loss, even as the Variety piece linked above notes:

Clapton isn’t the only musician who’s dealt with tinnitus. The Who’s Pete Townshend has also discussed his own problems with the condition and hearing loss.

Townshend did more than that–he pointed his finger squarely at earphones used in studio as the cause of his hearing loss and expresses concern about earbud exposure among the youth.

Perhaps music and entertainment magazine should look into how and why music icons are suffering hearing loss and educate their audience on how to avoid the same fate.

The importance of the scientific method

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The New York Times reports that officials at the Centers for Disease control were told not to use certain words, including “evidence based” and “science based.

The Quiet Coalition’s website states:

The Quiet Coalition consists of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.
We believe an evidence-based approach to noise as a health and social problem, combined with educational outreach and organized action, can lead to meaningful change.
The Quiet Coalition provides a platform for communication, programs, and coordinated action for those trying to bring current medical and scientific knowledge to the process of creating a quieter, more sustainable, and livable world.

The founders and members of The Quiet Coalition believe in scientific evidence and evidence-based policy and decision making.

We urge those in government to make decisions based on sound evidence, not on faith or dogma, and to monitor programs for results.

If something doesn’t work, stop that and try something different.

That’s the scientific method. That’s how Thomas Edison invented so many things. That’s how societies get ahead.

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.

Information is our weapon against noise

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

As this column by Jane Brody discusses, 47 years ago the Center for Science in the Public Interest started informing the public about good nutrition and also influencing public policy about food labeling and nutrition standards.

CSPI’s success has been mixed, but it clearly has had a major impact.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I became a noise activist three years ago–after reading this article in The New York Times science section about hyperacusis, which I have–I set out to do the same thing for noise that CSPI has done for food and nutrition.

Everything I do regarding noise is based on scientific and medical evidence. To my surprise, most of the information I have written about has been known since the early 1970s, or even earlier. It just has been forgotten since the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control was defunded (pdf) during the Reagan years. I took me a year to learn what a safe noise level is, as I wrote in the American Journal of Public Health. [Hint: it’s not 85 decibels without time limit, as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health insists on its website, with the misleading statement “[l]ong or repeated exposure to sound at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.” That’s true, but it’s like the National Cancer Institute saying, “standing out in the sun every day for a long time all summer long can cause skin cancer.”]

So let’s hope that regulators and policy makers will begin to recognize the dangers of noise exposure in the new year. I’m certainly going to do my part to bring this problem to their attention. I hope you will join me.

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.