Monthly Archive: February 2019

New NYC bill targets siren noise

Photo credit: Eden, Janine and Jim licensed under CC BY 2.0

A new bill introduced in New York City Council would require sirens to adopt the European two-toned model. City Council member Helen Rosenthal, who introduced the bill with fellow council member Carlina Rivera, said that she was “inspired to take action” after hearing feedback from Mt. Sinai Hospital’s trial of the European siren. According to Joseph Davis, the senior director of Mount Sinai’s emergency medical services, Mt. Sinai trialed the European siren after receiving complaints about the siren they had been using. The fix was always available, Davis said, as the ambulances had switches that allowed the hospital to use a variety of tones.

People who live in the neighborhoods served by Mt. Sinai’s ambulances could hear the difference. Said Roberta Semer, the chair of the Upper West Side’s community advisory board, the new siren was “better than it was.” Beforehand, she added, people were losing sleep because of the loud, shrill sirens.

Loud sirens can do more damage than just interrupting sleep (which is bad for health on its own). Richard Neitzel, a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan, notes that loud sirens can have “serious health effects,” adding that “[a] build up of unpredictable and uncontrollable noises a person can lead to stress, anxiety and even cardiovascular disease.”

So kudos to council members Rosenthal and Rivera.  We hope they succeed in getting this bill passed.

On being silent in a noisy world

Photo credit: Robert Aakerman

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I thought that Gal Beckerman’s essay, “The Case for Covering Your Ears in Noisy Times,” would be about the medical and scientific evidence for using hearing protection devices to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. But fortunately I was wrong. The wonderful essay and book review in the New York Times discusses the importance of being silent and of hearing silence in a noisy world.

Not speaking is part of many meditative religious and philosophical traditions, as is enforced silence.

But me? I’m not so extreme.  All I want is a little more quiet!

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Trump administration, oil companies threaten marine wildlife

Photo credit: Dr. Louis M. Herman for NOAA licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sarah Sloat, Inverse.com, writes about conservation activists fighting back against the Trump administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service “for issuing authorizations to five different companies allowing for ‘incidental harassment‘” of marine mammals as they survey the ocean floor in search of oil and gas off of the U.S.’s Atlantic coast. The authorizations are tied to five-year leases to explore and exploit the “potential 46 billion barrels of oil.”

So what will these companies do with the authorizations? They will first use seismic guns to search for the oil, and it’s the seismic guns that pose a real threat to marine wildlife.  Writes Sloat:

Seismic airguns are shot in pulses separated by 15 seconds: They can reach 260 decibels, but the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management prefers airguns reach 160 decibels, which is as loud as a jet taking off, and enough noise to rupture a human eardrum. Boats tow 12 to 48 airguns at a time, and their sonic bangs can be heard 2,500 miles away from the survey vessels. Here’s what seismic airguns sound like. [CAUTION: Lower your speaker volume before clicking.]

And Sloat cites Lindy Weilgart, Ph.D., a specialist in underwater noise pollution, who says there’s “’no longer any scientifically valid doubt’ that seismic airgun surveys pose a danger to marine life.” Weilgart added that the negative impacts of noise have been documented “in about 130 marine species, ranging from invertebrates to fish to whales.”

Click the first link to read the full story. It’s well worth your time, if for nothing else, to read about the bipartisan effort in congress to stop the seismic guns and impose a 10-year moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling.

A cheaper way to buy hearing aids exists

Photo credit: rawpixel.com from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article by Eric Ravenscraft, the New York Times, discusses how tech companies are offering cheaper hearing aids online. For those with hearing loss, this may be great news.

But for those without hearing loss yet, there is a simpler and cheaper solution. Namely, it’s far better to protect your hearing now, because even the best hearing aid isn’t a  replacement for preserved natural hearing.

Noise-induced hearing loss accounts for a lot of hearing loss in the U.S., and it is entirely avoidable.

So remember, if something sounds too loud, it is too loud. If you want to preserve your natural hearing, leave the noisy environment, insert ear plugs, or you’ll need hearing aids later.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

New technology may help the hard of hearing

Photo credit: rawpixel.com from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

New technology may help the hard of hearing by providing automatic captioning of live conversations on smart phones. This article by Richard Nieva, CNET, describes the technology, which is limited to Android phones, but I’m sure that Apple will soon follow with similar technology for iPhones. After all, the potential market is 50 million adults with hearing loss in the U.S., and over 400 million worldwide.

And all data suggest that, for a number of reasons, this is unfortunately a growth market.

But I can guarantee that preserved natural hearing is far better than any technological solution to hearing loss, be it hearing aids, personal sound amplification products, or the new Google app.

Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable. Simply avoid loud noise and you won’t lose your hearing.

Your ears are like your eyes or your knees–you only have two of them! Protect them and they will last you a lifetime.

And remember: If it sounds too loud, it IS too loud.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

In search of lost sounds

Photo credit: Stas Knop from Pexels

Nicholas Rivero, Quartz, writes about sounds that have been lost to time because humans have only had the ability to record sound since the mid-1800s.  Says Rivero:

That means a great many noises—the call of the wooly mammoth, the first words of early humans, the music of ancient cultures—have fallen silent forever. But thanks to the efforts of a dedicated cohort of scientists, historians, programmers, musicians, and everyday enthusiasts, some lost sounds are making a comeback.

And what follows is a romp through the past, accompanied by links to YouTube videos that let you hear the reconstructed sounds and learn how they were rediscovered. Well worth the click.

Thanks to Lisa Kothari for the link.

Is noise pollution damaging our health?

Photo credit: rawpixel.com from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

In a word, “Yes!”  This article by Robert Hume,The Irish Examiner, discusses the many ways noise pollution damages health. The scientific evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible.

The “deniers” may try to sow doubt, as with tobacco smoke causing cancer or climate change being real, but there can no longer be any rational doubt that environmental noise causes hearing loss and non-auditory health effects, including hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and death. There is still a Flat Earth Society, and the conservative Heartland Institute still claims that there is doubt about cigarette smoking causing lung cancer. But these deniers of reality are clearly on the fringe, avoiding rational consideration of the scientific evidence.

Some noise may be an unavoidable product of modern society, but our world doesn’t have to be as noisy as it is.

The first publication about noise as a public health hazard appeared fifty years ago (pdf). If enough people complain to their elected representatives, many steps can be taken to make the environment quieter. This is already happening in Europe, where noise is recognized as a health hazard.

What are we waiting for in the U.S.?

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Harley-Davidson launches a (quiet) electric hog

Photo credit: Harley-Davidson

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

We’re written several times about the transportation revolution that is happening in two-wheeled, four-wheeled, and even 16-wheeled vehicles. Last week, Harley-Davidson—long famous for its loud, rumbling “hogs” favored by serious bikers—announced the launch of their first “electric hog” priced at $30,000.

Clearly they don’t expect to sell many at that price! But it’s an important step for Harley-Davidson. Says one company spokesperson, “[a]fter 115 years we’ve had to reinvent ourselves a number of times, and this is just the next step in continuing the legacy.”

Harley is playing catch-up to young startup motorcycle companies that already have launched quieter electric motorcycles, not to mention all kinds of scooters in the U.S. In fact, it’s planning on expanding it’s offerings with a couple of all-electric bikes aimed at urban use.

Those of us who grit our teeth whenever we hear a Harley, or a bunch of Harleys, blow by us will definitely be pleased to know that the company is at least making a try.

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.

As restaurant noise rises, will diners take their money elsewhere?

Photo credit: Boon Low licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I added the question mark to the headline from this article by Debra Pressey in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette because I disagree with the headline. Pressey describes the research of University of Illinois professor Pasquale Bottalico, which found that even young people have difficulty conversing in noisy situations. He also asked them if the higher noise levels would make them less likely to dine in noisy restaurants, and they said, “Yes.” Professor Bottalico plans to repeat his research in an older population.

The only problem with the research–and the reason I added the question mark–is that most often there are no quiet restaurants to go to. This study by Greg Scott, founder of the SoundPrint restaurant noise app, documents the extent of the problem in Manhattan.

I anticipate that when sufficient data are gathered in other cities, similar sound levels will be reported.

Noise is a health and public health hazard.  Ambient noise in restaurants is also a disability rights issue. If enough people complain to enough local city council members, maybe something will be done to make restaurants quieter.

If the U.S. could make restaurants smoke-free, it can make them quieter, too.

DISCLOSURE. Dr. Fink serves as Medical Advisor to SoundPrint, which is mentioned in this article.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Will kids face an epidemic of hearing loss?

Photo credit: Jonas Mohamadi from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This interview of U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb discusses an unprecedented epidemic of vaping among teens. According to the FDA Commissioner and the Surgeon General, the epidemic caught public health authorities by surprise.

Use of personal music players, with associated headphones or earbuds, is also very common among teens. About 90% of teens have a personal music player of one sort or another. An article last year reported found auditory damage among 14% of Dutch schoolchildren age 9-11 who used personal music players. One might call this an epidemic of personal music player use.

It takes about 40 years of noise exposure for noise-induced hearing loss to become clinically apparent, so when today’s young people are in their 40s to 50s, they will likely be as hard of hearing as today’s people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Since 2015, I have been trying to get those federal agencies responsible for protecting the public–the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Advertising Practices, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission–to take action to protect young people’s hearing. I’ve also communicated with the American Academy of Pediatrics, which educates parents about the dangers of sun exposure and tobacco smoke, but not about noise.

I’m going to add the Surgeon General to my list. A predecessor issued a Call to Action about skin cancer, but no one has said anything about noise in more than 50 years.

So far my appeals have largely been ignored.

So the question is this: Will there be an unprecedented epidemic of hearing loss in children and teens when they get older? And will those charged with protecting Americans’ health remember that they were warned?

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.