The Tyranny of Noise. Do click the link as this is a worthwhile read. In this brief post, the author talks about the daily aural intrusions into our personal space as we are forced to deal with what the author calls a “kind of social rudeness.” We would remove the words “kind of” from that phrase. In any event, the author lists three ways in which she attempts “to push back on the cacophony of sounds in [her] immediate environment”: using earphones, using earplugs, and meditation. We would add:
- request that loud music be lowered in stores, restaurants, and coffee shops; if the request is denied, leave after telling management that you will not be returning.
- ask people who are talking loudly in public spaces to lower their voices, particularly if they are in spaces that have been designated as quiet spots (like the quiet cars on Amtrak trains).
We understand that it is difficult for some to ask a waitress or store manager to lower the music volume or, especially, to approach someone and ask them to lower their voice, but until we all do this, unnecessary noise will continue to intrude into our lives.
Dr. Daniel Fink, a leading noise pollution activist, writes about why the IOM Report Should Consider Prevention of Hearing Loss and not just treatment after injury.
Shari Eberts writes about living with hearing loss. Unlike many people with hearing loss, Shari’s loss is genetic and not noise-induced. There currently is no cure for hearing loss and the only treatment is a hearing aid. Shari explains why hearing aids are an imperfect treatment in Ten Reasons Hearing Aids Are NOT Like Glasses.
In support of Noise Action Week, the Chelmsford City Council, using data from noise complaints, will produce noise heat maps of the city and intend to use that information to target hotspot areas. In addition to visiting the hotspots and doing outreach in those areas, the city council has launched a noise app that will allow residents to make a recording of noise that is causing a disturbance and send it direct to a case officer for review. It will be interesting to see if the mobile app gets traction and is useful in reducing noise complaints.
Apparently this past week was Noise Action Week in the UK, a campaign coordinated by Environmental Protection UK, which is a charity that provides expert policy analysis and information on air quality, land quality, and noise. Noise Action Week supports groups, agencies, and services that are involved in reducing the cost of noise to health and quality of life.
The Toronto Noise Coalition (TNC), unhappy with insufficient enforcement of noise bylaws, released a survey that found that “72% of Torontoians are interested to some degree in the issue of noise pollution.” The survey, which TNC commissioned, also found that “12% of respondents had filed a noise complaint with the city” and that “two-thirds of complainants were unhappy with the response from the city.”
Part of the reason for the unhappiness, no doubt, is the city’s response to the complaints:
Mark Sraga, of Toronto’s municipal licencing and standards department, says there are 200 officers available to deal with general complaints. But noise complaints may take a back seat to others in terms of response time.
Sraga added that, “[w]e prioritize, yes. Life and safety, life and death, those are priority issues. Noise is not one of those life and safety issues.” Except that it is. As Dr. David McKeown, the city’s chief medical officer of heath, notes, “noise causes sleep disturbances, which are associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and viral illnesses.”
Long and short, city responses to noise–and not just Toronto–fall short because most city officials don’t see noise as an important issue. Which means that citizens have to lead this issue and demand that some resources be made available to address noise pollution, which affects quality of life and health.
Does this mean Jersey City is going to be an urban hellhole, plagued by eardrum blasting noise 24/7? No. The new law, a model ordinance already blessed by the state, lifts the ban on boom boxes, which may have been unenforceable, and, instead, requires anyone playing music outside to make sure that the music “is not “plainly audible” from a distance of 50 feet during the day (25 feet after 10 p.m.).” The article does not give us the definition of “plainly audible,” nor explain how it will be determined.
An earlier article highlights other changes under the revised ordinance, which includes a ban on the use of power tools on a residential property before 8:00 a.m., a requirement that snow blowers have mufflers or sound reduction devices, and a ban on animals “howling, yelping, barking, squawking, etc.” for more than five minutes without interruption. But an earlier version of the revised ordinance which would have changed the time that permitted construction could start on weekdays to 8:00 a.m. was punted and the existing 7:00 a.m. start time was retained. And the revised ordinance has some teeth, as it allows a certified noise-control officer the authority to issue fines of up to $1,000 for violations.
Whether the revised ordinance satisfies all constituents remains to be seen. Kudos to the Jersey City city council for recognizing the detrimental impact of noise and for attempting to limit its effect on residents and visitors.
Click the link to learn the 12 ways that workplace noise affects worker well-being and productivity. While the executive team, safely ensconced in their offices, may not care about worker well-being, productivity is another thing altogether.
For a bit of background on the use of open-floor plans and some advice on how to make them better, see Open-Plan Offices Are the Worst, Here’s how to make them slightly less terrible.
The National Parks Service has created two maps: one that tracks noise pollution throughout the United States, and another that maps what the country would sound like without humans and our noise. And what do the maps show? Dan Mennitt, the park service researcher behind the maps, states:
There’s nowhere in the lower 48 where you can sit in a national park or any other natural area and not hear aircraft. There’s no such thing as a noise-free day anywhere.
If you are looking for quiet, Gordon Hempton thinks he may have found the quietest square inch in the U.S.