Monthly Archive: January 2018

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.

Lafayette, Indiana’s mysterious hum solved!

And Duke Energy accepts the blame.

Residents of Lafayette, Indiana were hearing a mysterious hum during a recent cold wave, and they were concerned enough to call the local police to report it. Turns out, the reason for the intermittent humming was do to the recent bitter cold temperatures. Says Duke Energy, “it’s nothing but the sound of the simple physics needed to deliver electricity during the coldest weather in the past few years in Lafayette,” adding that “[i]t’s nothing to be concerned about and there’s no danger involved.”

So there’s your answer, Lafaytte. Now get some sleep!

 

Local airports are a problem too

Photo credit: Addison YC licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Local airports are a problem for those who live near them.

Airports big and small–from Logan in Boston and Reagan in Washington to the airports in the Hamptons and Santa Monica–have been in the news recently for noise and air pollution problems.

And now it’s Teterboro Airport’s turn in the spotlight.

I lived under the flight path to the Santa Monica Airport from 1991-2009, so I saw (or perhaps heard) the transition from single-engine Beechcraft, Cessna, and Piper aircraft, with a rare Beechcraft King Air two-engine plane from time to time, to Gulfstream 3, 4, and 5 jets. The single-engine planes didn’t make much noise, but not so for the jets.

A few things happened simultaneously. Thanks to airline deregulation, the number of passengers flying increased dramatically, without a corresponding increase in airport capacity. Because of this, airline service quality declined. After September 11, 2001, things got much worse. The security regulations made it unpleasant and time-consuming to travel on commercial flights, even in first or business class. The rise of the multi-millionaire and billionaire classes, thanks to strong markets and federal tax policies favoring wealthy investors, meant that many more people could afford to charter small jets, purchase fractional jet ownerships, or even buy their own planes.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald is reputed to have said, “the rich are different from you and me.” Why put up with the hassles of going through airport security and waiting for the boarding announcement when your limousine can drop you off and your private jet’s crew will load your bags while your custom-ordered meals are being delivered? Of course, the costs of these luxuries aren’t just borne by the rich. Those living near the airports put up with the noise and pollution.

In Santa Monica, the community finally rose in opposition and after a lengthy legal battle, succeeded in getting the airport to cease operations in 2028. Noise and safety concerns–a Gulfstream jet produces a lot more pollution and noise than a single-engine plane, and if one ever crashes it will cause a lot more damage than a small plane–were the major issues.

I hope I live ten more years to see (and hear) this happen. And I hope that those living near other small airports are successful in their efforts to control noise and pollution problems, too.

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.

How your brain singles out one sound among many

Shilo Rea, Carnegie-Mellon, writes that researchers “have developed a new way to find out how the brain singles out specific sounds in distracting settings.” Why is this significant? Because, writes Rea, “[t]he study lays crucial groundwork to track deficits in auditory attention due to aging, disease, or brain trauma and to create clinical interventions, like behavioral training, to potentially correct or prevent hearing issues.”

This research is important because deficits in auditory attention are associated with social isolation, depression, cognitive dysfunction and lower work force participation. According to Frederic Dick, professor of auditory cognitive neuroscience at Birkbeck College and University College London, once neuroscientists “start to understand how subtle differences in the brain’s functional and structural architecture might make some regions more ‘fertile ground’ for learning new information.”

Click the link to read more about the fascinating study.

Fresh thinking about quiet, space-saving urban transportation

Introducing the URB-E

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

By now we’ve all seen battery-powered Segways, battery-powered bicycles, and battery-powered motorcycles—awkward, cumbersome, big, heavy commuter vehicles that have enough power to get you from home to the train station or bus stop. Then what do you do with it? Granted they take less space than cars and don’t spew exhaust fumes, but their bulk and weight is a problem.

Now comes URB-E, a cleverly designed, small-scale, apparently foldable electric scooter that you can take right onto the bus or train with you. Brilliant! Kudos to the designers in Pasdena who thought this up. Can’t wait to see them on the roads and campuses around here when spring rolls around. Looks like fun.

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.

Move over Bigfoot, you may have a competitor

The Huffington Post reports that strange sounds are popping up in different parts of Canada. How strange? Listen for yourself:

Ok, we admit that if we were in the middle of the woods and heard that we would set a new record for fastest sprint the hell out of there. That said, our money is on this phenomenon turning out to be the aural version of crop circles. Expect more to come.

An interesting report on access + ability

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Access + Ability is the name of an exhibit open now at the Cooper Hewitt design museum in New York City.

This column in the New York Times discusses some of the many issues involved in designing products and increasingly apps to assist those with disabilities.

The author doesn’t mention one such app which I think will be a great help to those of us with auditory disorders–hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis–namely, Greg Scott’s free SoundPrint app, which allows measurement of sound levels in restaurants and bars and then posting this information for that specific restaurant or bar on a publicly accessible site.

I think it’s great that people with disabilities are being helped both by laws requiring modifications to make public places accessible to them, and now by new technologies. But it’s better to avoid a disability if one can. Driving safely in a safety-rated vehicle and wearing a seat belt is one way of reducing the likelihood of serious physical injury from a motor vehicle crash. Avoiding loud noise and wearing hearing protection reduces the danger of noise-induced hearing loss, the most common type of hearing loss.

Protect your ears. Like your eyes and 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.

The EU takes noise very seriously

Photo credit: Anthony Luco licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Connexion France cites a report by Le Monde that France was warned by European Commission on noise levels. Apparently “Brussels demanded that France instantly adopt its action points on the reduction of “ambient noise”, after the country was found to be in breach of the 2002 directive on the issue.” The directive that France is apparently breaching requires EU nation states to “measure and reduce noise levels in large towns, along main roads and railway tracks, and around large airports, and keep them within the European limits.” European limits are 68 decibels during the day and 62 decibels at night time.

This is not the first time that the EC has warned a member nation about noise, as The Connexion France says that since 2016, the EC has issued noise complaints against 13 members. Why is the EC so forceful about regulating noise? Because the Commission understands that “noise, especially that from traffic, trains or planes is the ‘second largest cause of premature death [among nearby residents] after atmospheric pollution.'” Adds Antoine Perez Munoz of Bruitparif, the noise regulator in Ile-de-France, “[o]n average, noise pollution causes seven months’ loss of good health or life per person, and up to two years’ loss for someone living in a very noisy area.”

One hopes for a future where the U.S. government is as vigilant with regard to noise.  Kudos to the EC.

 

And you thought your neighbors were loud

Make it stop!!!!  Photo credit: Tristan Ferne licensed under CC BY 2.0

Pity the poor dolphin: reproductive orgies of Mexican fish are ao loud, they can deafen dolphins.

Not much to add really, not with a story like this one. Except to note that we had a couple of loud neighbors who failed to understand–at least at first–that everyone in our building could hear everything they were doing by that open window in their bedroom. So here’s a useful tip: A direct and contemporaneous comment about neighbors’ noise-making will swiftly bring their proceedings to halt.

You’re welcome!

 

 

 

Noise is the next great public health crisis

Photo credit: Loozrboy licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coaltion

This wonderful article from Futurism.com discusses the major problem of noise pollution as the nation and the world become increasingly urbanized.

Few remember that the U.S., government policy, as voted by Congress and signed into law in 1972, is “to promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that jeopardizes their health and welfare.”

The article’s author, Neel V. Patel, cites extensively noise pioneer and The Quiet Coalition co-founder and board member Arline Bronzaft, PhD, who 45 years ago showed that environmental noise interfered with children’s learning.

As Patel writes:

It’s impossible to overstate how much noise pollution can wreak havoc on human health and safety. High noise levels can exacerbate hypertension, cause insomnia or sleep disturbances, result in hearing loss, and worsen a plethora of other medical conditions. All of these problems can aggravate other health issues by inducing higher levels of stress, which can cascade into worsened immune systems, heart problems, increased anxiety and depression — the list just goes on and on.

We at The Quiet Coalition agree.  So click the first link, read Patel’s article, and learn how the U.S. government’s active failure to regulate noise since 1981 all but guarantees that noise is the next great public health crisis.

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.