Author Archive: GMB

Don’t let unsafe use of tech and toys ruin your children’s hearing

Photo credit: Dark Dwarf licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Don’t let unsafe use of tech and toys ruin your children’s hearing. That’s the message the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is sending to parents this holiday season. This article from a New Jersey radio station features ASHA’s associate director, audiologist Paul Farrell, who warns that loud noise from toys and headphones can cause hearing loss, which in turn affects academic, social, and economic success for the rest of the child’s life.

That’s why protecting a child’s hearing is so important.

Parents and grandparents should heed Mr. Farrell’s warning. After all, a child’s ears have to last her or him an entire lifetime.

And I’ll add a warning to the advice Farrell gives: Headphones advertised as “safe for hearing” using 85 decibels as a volume limit are not safe for hearing. The World Health Organization recommends only one hour at 85 A-weighted decibels (dBA)* to prevent hearing loss.

The 85 dBA standard is derived from occupational hearing regulations and doesn’t protect all exposed workers from hearing loss. It’s not meant as an exposure level for the general public, much less children.

I think you will agree that a noise exposure standard that won’t protect factory workers or heavy equipment operators is far too loud for a child’s delicate ears. So this holiday season, avoid tech and toys that play loud sound and give your kids the gift of continued good hearing.

*A-weighting adjusts sound measurements for the frequencies heard in human speech. A-weighted decibel readings are approximately 5-7 decibels lower than unweighted measurements.

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.

Cities and Memory launches NYC sound map

Photo credit: Lukas Kloeppel from Pexels

Cities and Memory has launched an interactive New York Sound Map. The map is sprinkled with markers that provide the original New York City sound recording for each site “accompanied by a reimagined version, in which an artist has remixed and recomposed the original recording to present a new perspective on the city.” Be prepared to spend some time wandering around the city.

Cities and Memory also offers sonic tourism guides to a dozen cities, including New York City.  Be sure to bookmark the site and sign up for their mailing list so you can be the first to learn about future projects.

Have electronics manufacturers hooked a generation on sound?

Photo credit: thekirbster licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article in The New York Times describes how Juul hooked a generation on nicotine, while regulators slept. Now millions are addicted and hundreds have died from vaping.

The Walkman was first marketed in 1979, followed by the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007, and a host of similar devices shortly thereafter. Very effective advertising convinced people–young people especially–that they needed a constant sound track in their lives. Now people use their personal listening devices about 5 hours a day, often at high volumes.

Have electronics manufacturers hooked a generation–or two–on a constant stream of loud sound? Will the result be an epidemic of noise-induced hearing loss when today’s young people reach mid-life?

I hope someone will remember this warning if I’m not around. But if I am around, I will have no pleasure in saying “I told you so” to the millions of Americans coping with hearing loss.  We still have time to prevent today’s teenagers from suffering untreatable noise-induced hearing loss, but we have to act now.

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.

America’s local communities thriving despite partisan gridlock

Photo credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

by Jamie L. Banks, PhD, MS, Executive Director, Quiet Communities, Inc., Co-Founder, The Quiet Coalition and David Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

As Justice Louis Brandeis noted long ago, America’s “laboratories of democracy” are its individual communities, and its state and local governments. In their new book,“Our Towns,” Deborah and James Fallows describe their search for local success stories occurring in cities and towns across the U.S., despite the partisan gridlock in Washington D.C.

We hope you enjoy reading the statement below from the editors of The Atlantic, and we strongly urge you to click on the links which provide further exploration of areas where America is thriving and succeeding:

If the future of the federal government seems bleak, James Fallows offers an unlikely source of hope: the decline of the Roman empire. Rome’s fall, he writes, including the collapse of central governance, ushered in a sustained era of creativity at the local level, which in turn led to cultural advancement and prosperity. In America, it may be up to states and the private sector to function in the areas where federal governance has failed, from climate change to higher education. And if anyone knows what’s happening in America’s local communities, it’s Fallows, who for years has traveled the country to explore how smaller towns are tackling challenges that seem insurmountable from the national perspective. He writes: ‘A new world is emerging, largely beyond our notice.’”

Making change at the local level can be very, very hard if you’re faced with organized and well-funded opposition from outside the community—as the Fallows discovered when they helped lead a noise control initiative in their own hometown, Washington DC. But a carefully coordinated and locally-controlled process of community change there yielded the results that residents were looking for.

Jamie L. Banks, PhD, MSc, is the Executive Director of Quiet Communities, Inc. and the Program Director of The Quiet Coalition. She is an environmentalist and health care scientist dedicated to promoting clean, healthy, quiet, and sustainable landscape maintenance, construction, and agricultural practices. Dr. Banks has an extensive background in health outcomes and economics, environmental behavior, and policy.

David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Hearing loss from recreational sound exposure

Photo credit: Brett Sayles from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

RECOMMENDATIONS TO REDUCE HEARING LOSS FROM RECREATIONAL SOUND EXPOSURE

This detailed review article by Richard Neitzel, PhD, and Brian Fligor, PhD, in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America discusses the risk of noise-induced hearing loss from recreational sound exposure.

The abstract contains the important conclusions, which are amply supported by the article itself. They are:

  1. The recommended occupational exposure limit is 85 A-weighted decibels (dBA)*. Some exposed workers will develop hearing loss from this noise exposure. To eliminate the risk of hearing loss, a 24 hour average of 70 dB is recommended.
  2. It is possible that occupational noise exposure may have worse impacts on hearing than equal exposures to recreational noise. But the application of statistical hearing loss models developed from occupational noise data to estimate the impacts of recreational noise exposure is nevertheless warranted.
  3. A recreational noise exposure limit of 80 dBA for 8 hours, equivalent to 75 dBA for 24 hours, should prevent hearing loss for adults. For children and other vulnerable individuals, e.g., those who already have hearing loss, the lower exposure level of 75 dBA for 8 hours, or 70 dBA for 24 hours, is appropriate.

Common non-occupational noise exposure sources include public transit, appliances, power tools, personal music players and other personal listening devices, musical instrument practice and performance, concerts, sports events, and parties.

Protecting hearing is simple. Eliminate high noise exposures where possible, increase the distance between you and noise sources around you, and use hearing protection (earplugs or ear muffs).

Because if something sounds too loud, it is too loud, and your hearing is at risk.

*A-weighting adjusts noise measurements for the frequencies heard in human speech.
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.

CDC to run noise PSAs in Times Square

Photo credit: Jose Francisco Fernandez Saura at Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is “making noise about noise,” posting public service announcements on the world’s largest digital billboard at the proverbial “Crossroads of the World,” Times Square in New York City. The 15-second PSAs are scheduled for Thanksgiving week and the week before New Year’s Day.

The CDC’s public health message about the need for people to protect their hearing is very direct.

We hope everyone pays attention.

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.

Noise pollution impacts many species

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article in Smithsonian Magazine discusses a meta-analysis in Biology Letters documenting the adverse effects of noise pollution on animals, ranging in size from small insects to giant marine mammals.

We have recently redefined noise as unwanted and/or harmful sound. Nature is quiet, not noisy. I documented the evidence-based noise levels affecting human health and function, starting with sleep disruption at sound pressure levels as low as 30-35 A-weighted decibels*, in an recent article in Acoustics Today. I don’t think the data exist to write a similar article about specific noise levels affecting non-human animal health and function, but the definition of noise as unwanted and/or harmful sound was meant to include animals, too.

Noise pollution is ubiquitous. A quieter world will be better for most living things, including all animals and plants that depend on animals for functions like pollination and seed dissemination.

*A-weighting adjusts sound measurements to reflect the frequencies heard in human speech.

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.

News media continue to treat airport noise as a ‘local problem’

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

It’s amazing that news media continue to treat airport noise as simply a local quality of life problem. A recent example from comes from Eagan, Minnesota, where homeowners are angry about noisy air flights creating “a significant quality of life issue.”

In fact, airport noise is a national issue, and there’s actually very little that local authorities can do about it. They quite literally don’t have the authority because a very large, powerful federal agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, calls the shots.

In short, the FAA argues and almost always wins because the agency can pre-empt local authorities.

What to do? It is essential for local communities to join hands with the 47 member-communities of the National Quiet Skies Coalition and their 47 Congressional representatives who are members of the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus to pressure the FAA to respond to community complaints and actually do something about the growing problem of airport noise.

It is also essential to become familiar with the growing body of research about the effects of that airport noise on the health of people in surrounding communities. That research is unequivocal: noise is much more than a quality of life problem as it causes serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and more.

This is serious stuff—and has been well-known since the first World Health Organization report on this subject was published in 2011.

So if you want something done to stop airport noise in your community, it’s essential to:

  1. Recognize that the problem is national, not local;
  2. Get involved with the National Quiet Skies Coalition and its Congressional members;
  3. Become familiar with the growing body of research; and
  4. Tell your local media about all of this — because clearly their reporters don’t yet get it.

David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

More than Hearing Loss: APHA points to growing health effects of noise

Photo: Dr. Jennifer Deal giving her presentation on hearing loss and dementia

by Jamie L. Banks, PhD, MS, Executive Director, Quiet Communities, Inc., Co-Founder, The Quiet Coalition

Noise is not just a nuisance, it’s a growing public health hazard and action is long overdue.

That’s the message delivered at the November 2019 annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Philadelphia, where doctors and other specialists identified evidence that “environmental noise” underlies a myriad of health problems reaching well beyond hearing loss.

The sources of this noise range widely, from aircraft takeoffs and landings, construction activity and loud music, to gas-powered lawn and garden equipment and widespread use of personal listening devices. The related health effects that were described include dementia, heart disease, diabetes, sleep disruption, and obesity, all brought about by the body’s reaction to noise-induced stress.

Dr. Leon Vinci, adjunct faculty at Drexel University and session moderator, opened the workshop by stating “there is a clear connection between excessive and unwanted noise with detriments to health and well-being.” The goals of the session were to raise awareness and issue a call to action.

Half the adult US population over age 60 “are impacted by a clinically meaningful hearing loss,” Dr. Jennifer Deal, a Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist, reported, “and there is growing recognition that hearing loss is associated with dementia—with up to 9 percent of global dementia cases attributed to hearing loss.”

Dr. Mathias Basner, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Psychiatry, pointed also to the extent that unwanted noise contributes to cardiovascular disease. “While the effect of noise on cardiovascular disease risk is relatively small, it still constitutes an important public health problem as so many people are exposed to relevant noise levels,” he said. Sound insulation measures help mitigate some of the negative health effects of noise, but reducing noise at the source still makes the most sense.”

The title given to the APHA meeting session, “Environmental Noise: the New Second-Hand Smoke,” likened the problem to that which has prompted limits nationally on smoking tobacco in public places. Dr. Lucy Weinstein, co-chair of APHA’s Noise and Health Committee, said the reports give impetus to updating and acting on the organization’s 2013 noise policy statement that advocated federal action.

“The ways in which we define and measure noise contribute to [political] inattention to noise as a public health problem,” said Dr. Jamie Banks, executive director of Quiet Communities Inc., a Massachusetts-based nonprofit educational and advocacy organization. Banks cited a revised definition offered by Dr. Daniel Fink, founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, a QCI program. This change would elevate the threshold followed by engineers and physicists from “unwanted noise” to “unwanted and/or harmful sound.”

Furthermore, present methods for measuring sound do not necessarily reflect the real-world impact of noise on health and communities, like low-frequency components in landscape, construction, and air traffic noise, Banks said. As an example, harmful noise from a gas-powered leaf blower carries a longer distance than that from a battery electric blower even though both are rated at the same decibel level. “We have the technology to better understand the noise characteristics that impact health and community– it’s time to employ it.”

Dr. Arline Bronzaft, a City University of New York professor emerita and longtime advocate for controlling urban noise, argued that mounting scientific and medical evidence demands action. She urged APHA members to renew support for the organization’s noise control policy published in 2013.

“The evidence on noise as a public health hazard was convincing 40 years ago,” Bronzaft said. “Now, despite even stronger evidence linking noise to adverse effects on hearing, the cardiovascular system, metabolism, and psychological health, learning, and cognition, we are not moving forward aggressively enough to reduce the many sources of noise pollution in our communities.”

Jamie L. Banks, PhD, MSc, is the Executive Director of Quiet Communities, Inc. and the Program Director of The Quiet Coalition. She is an environmentalist and health care scientist dedicated to promoting clean, healthy, quiet, and sustainable landscape maintenance, construction, and agricultural practices. Dr. Banks has an extensive background in health outcomes and economics, environmental behavior, and policy.