A new definition of noise redux

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by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Thanks to the editorial staff at Hearing Health Foundation and its Hearing Health magazine, I was able to adapt my paper that first appeared in Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics.

The paper, based on a presentation I made at the Acoustical Society of America meeting in San Diego in December 2019, offers a new definition of noise: Noise is unwanted and/or harmful sound.

The most common definition of noise is merely “noise is unwanted sound,” but that definition omits the unfortunate reality that even wanted sound–whether a rock concert, using a personal listening device at volumes high enough to compensate for ambient noise, or activities like woodworking, motor sports, or shooting sports–can cause hearing loss and other auditory disorders.

Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics graciously allowed me to adapt the paper for the Summer 2020 issue of Hearing Health magazine.

Between the appearance of the two articles, inspired by the young Black woman who persuaded the Merriam-Webster dictionary folks to update their definition of racism, I reached out to them about updating their definition of noise. The CNN report states that she wasn’t expecting much when she sent her email, but look what happened.

I haven’t heard back from Merriam-Webster, but I’m hoping that lightning might strike twice.

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.

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