Acoustics

Is your home too noisy? Here’s a useful guide to help make your space more peaceful:

How to solve common sound problems in your home. Kate Wagner, a graduate student in Acoustics writing for Curbed.com, has written an interesting piece on room acoustics that is very accessible for the layperson.  She describes basic acoustic principles and examines common sound problems and solutions.  Whether the issue is your entertainment system or an open plan space, Wagner offers straight forward suggestions you can use to make your home as aurally comfortable as possible.

If you want to learn more about about sound absorption, reflection, diffusion, and transmission to see how they affect the sound quality of a room, watch this short and informative video Wagner linked to in her piece:

 

This sounds like clickbait but it isn’t:

Try this one trick to hear people better at parties. And the trick is?  “People in noisy situations should face slightly away from the person they’re listening to and turn one ear towards the speech.”  A new study, funded by UK charity Action on Hearing Loss, finds this technique is a particularly helpful listening tactic for cochlear implant users, and is “compatible with lip-reading, which was unaffected by a modest, 30-degree head orientation.”

Click the link above to learn more about why this technique works and to watch the video at the bottom of the webpage on binaural audio (or how to record sound so it sounds like it does in your head).

 

A little self-help can’t hurt

In light of the recent study linking traffic noise to an increased risk of acquiring dementia, this article is a must read: How To Reduce Noise Pollution At Home.

Of course, one would hope that governments would think about how best to limit noise after reading that frightening study.  The medical costs alone should be enough to motivate even the most dispassionate bean counter.  But until they do, we really must take matters into our own hands and try to make our homes as peaceful and noise free as possible.

Link via @QuietMark.

 

Companies employ gimmicks in lieu of addressing noisy workplaces

Startup Stock Photos

As cubicles and wall-less offices proliferate, companies are adding special rooms, lounges, even gardens where employees can take a pause.

, The Boston Globe, writes about the quiet spaces Tufts Health Plan offers to its employees.  While quiet spaces may seem like the newest perk du jour startups offer to lure talent, there’s another reason for these amenities:

Watertown-based Tufts is among many companies now offering quiet spaces where employees can step away from their desks for a few minutes and recharge. Such spaces are especially welcome in open offices, where workers sit in close quarters and noise carries easily. The garden and the quiet room at Tufts, which opened in recent years, have been popular with a small, enthusiastic, and growing group of employees. “The more people hear about it, the more they’re willing to try it,” says Lydia Greene, Tufts’s chief human resources officer. “Pretty soon we will need a bigger room.”

Yes, the reason for the quiet room and garden is to compensate for the uncomfortably noisy work space Tufts imposes on its employees.  Sadly, the article prints the unsupported assertion that “firms eliminate private offices to foster collaboration,” when it’s not exactly a secret that the business case for open plan offices is simple: They’re cheaper.

When one considers the cost of providing quiet spaces plus the time lost when employees seek out a quiet space in which to decompress, perhaps the new trend will be a return to offices?

Link via @jeaninebotta.

Not surprising, but useful information to point to if you are told you’re being an alarmist:

nightclub-photo

Noise levels in nightclubs may induce hearing loss.  News Medical reports that “researchers in Southern California have found that the average continuous level of noise in some nightclubs is at least 91.2 dBA (A-weighted decibels).”  Again, this is not a surprise, but what is surprising is a statement researchers made about noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).  Namely, the researchers found that “[c]lub goers may suffer noise-induced hearing loss from just one night out on the town.”  That’s right, if a club is loud enough, you could suffer a lifetime of hearing loss from one exposure.  Don’t be a statistic, if you are going to hit the clubs be forewarned and forearmed–bring ear plugs so you can have fun and preserve your hearing.

 

Time is up for ear-blasting technology,

peaceful washrooms are back.  Do you find the noise produced by electric hand dryers to be jarring or even painful?  You’re not alone.  All electric hand dryers make noise, but some are worse than others, “causing discomfort to all, and unnecessary stress to those with hypersensitivity to noise, hearing problems or conditions such as dementia and autism.”   Fortunately, a quieter alternative may be around the corner.  Quiet Mark announces the launch of its review of hand dryers, stating that it:

[T]ested a broad range of hand dryers and only the quietest, high-performance machines achieved a Quiet Mark award. This universal symbol makes it easier for those in charge of restaurants, bars, leisure centres, shops, libraries, hospitals and public conveniences to consider sound levels when assessing hand dryers for their venues.

Quiet Mark’s testing uses real-life testing environments for accurate result, because “the sound levels of hand dryers in real-life situations have often been underestimated.”  Among other things, Quiet Mark notes that hand dryers are:

[C]ommonly tested in ultra-absorbent acoustic laboratories, rather than in highly reverberant washrooms and toilets, where their loud motor noise can be uncomfortably amplified. They may also be tested without human hands in the airflow, which can add up to 10dB in some cases. The combination of these factors means that the machine can be twice as loud as some test results might show.

You can see Quiet Mark’s review of hand dryers here.

Dear restaurant owners: we don’t go to your restaurants to listen to music!

Brits complain that minimalist decor and loud music are driving them away from restaurants.  Action on Hearing Loss, a British charity, has conducted a survey in which they found that “90 per cent of people with hearing difficulties felt background noise was the biggest problem they faced when eating out.”  The survey also found that “79 per cent of [respondents] said they had left an establishment early because of the sound levels and 91 per cent of those asked said they wouldn’t go back to a noisy venue.” 

Not mentioned in the article is the theory that restauranteurs deliberately play loud music in an attempt to scare away older customers, since these restauranteurs must all covet a younger crowd that presumably loves stereocilia-destroying music.  If true, they will no doubt ignore the advice offered in the articl to temper the loud volume, but they should not ignore the warning noted in the piece.  Namely, Action on Hearing Loss “is now hoping to develop an app which will allow people to take a decibel recording for restaurants, posting it onto a forum and allowing people to avoid particularly noisy establishments.” 

New Yorkers already have a tool they can use to help them avoid mind-numbingly loud restaurants.  Our sister site, Quiet City Maps, reviews noise levels of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, parks and privately owned public spaces throughout the city.  Click on the link to read the reviews and to check out the map, which shows you the good, the bad, and the ugly with easy to understand color icons.  A mobile app is in the works, so please send any suggestions of (relatively) quiet places their way.

 

Note the healthy dose of skepticism:

The Kickstarter Success Story That Claims To Solve Noise Complaints.

Emphasis on “claims.”  You can read about this magical device (Muzo) by clicking the link.  Apparently the Kickstarter campaign seems long on promises and buzzwords (“Billionsound Technology (Powered by BST)” and “dynamic realistic sounds”) and short on, well, proof.  One good thing: $532,666 was raised in the Kickstarter campaign in which the creators sought just $100,000.  That is, lots of people want solutions for noise.  While we understand the appeal of a magic box, perhaps better regulation and quieter environments might be the better answer?

The law of unintended consequences strikes again:

U.S. Open Quieted Those Calling for a Roof. Now It Faces a Louder Problem.

Apparently the retractable roof repels rain but at the expense of trapping and reflecting fans’ voices and bouncing the sound to the court.  It’s not a problem for Wimbledon and the Australian Open, both of which added retractable roofs a while ago, because, in part, the Arthur Ashe Stadium holds 9,000 more people than the other two courts.  One must assume that Americans’ tolerance–if not love–of noise is a factor as well.  As the NY Times notes:

At most stadium sporting events, loudness is welcome, or even encouraged. At basketball arenas, football stadiums and baseball parks, video boards frequently implore, “Let’s make some noise!” In tennis, cheering is acceptable after points, but fans are expected to be quiet in the moments leading up to the action and the time during play.

Fan behavior at Ashe Stadium has always been unusual when compared with the three other Grand Slam tournaments — the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon. At the hallowed ground of Centre Court at Wimbledon, talking aloud during a point would probably get fans ejected.

Given the $150 million cost of the new roof, the folks at the U.S. Open probably would love to find a low-cost solution to this problem.  May we suggest duct tape?  Lots and lots of duct tape.

Thanks to Dr. Daniel Fink for the link.