Health and Noise

Does chocolate prevent hearing loss?

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This story in the Daily Mail says that chocolate may help prevent hearing loss, due to chemicals called polyphenols in chocolate. I’m not going to waste any time tracking down the original scientific article.

Over the last few decades, powerful computers and better statistical methods have made it easy–in the opinion of many scientists, too easy–to sort through large amounts of data to find interesting correlations or associations that in many cases are only random, even if they meet statistical significance and have some theoretical basis to explain why the association may be a causative one. I would put this “study” in that category.  Junk science about junk food.

I know that many people think chocolate is a health food, but too much chocolate will cause obesity, diabetes, and dental caries.

And to prevent hearing loss, why not just avoid loud noise or use hearing protection if you can’t avoid the noise. Because that’s actually safe and effective.

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.

600,000 Finns affected by traffic noise

Photo credit: Mihis Alex from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

As many as 600,000 people in Finland are affected by road traffic noise, according to a report in the journal Ympäristö ja terveys (Environment and Health in English). That is a fairly large number in any case, but Finland is a small country and that’s more than 10% of the population..

The report uses the word “annoys” to describe one of the impacts of road traffic noise on people, but I think the word “disturbs” is more accurate. Unwanted noise, including road traffic noise, doesn’t just bother people, it makes it hard to concentrate, hard to communicate, hard to relax.

And noise is much more than an annoyance.  Exposure to road traffic noise is strongly correlated, probably causally so, with a wide variety of medical conditions, including hypertension  obesity, diabetes and heart attack.

Fortunately, in Finland’s harsh climate, houses are well-insulated and much of the year windows are rarely opened, so road traffic noise is less of a problem than in more temperate climate zones.

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.

Another possible treatment for tinnitus

Photo credit: This photo is in the public domain.

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Tinnitus is “ringing in the ears,” or, more technically, the perception of sound when there is no external auditory stimulus. The current theory is that tinnitus is located in the brain, possibly abnormal electrical patterns, although the exact locus and lesion are not known.

This report from Finland describes the use of trans-cranial magnetic stimulation to treat patients with severe tinnitus. Like most similar reports, it is very preliminary.

Tinnitus has many causes, but the most common cause is noise exposure. This may be via a one-time exposure to loud noise or associated with noise-induced hearing loss caused by chronic noise exposure. In either instance, tinnitus can be prevented by avoiding noise exposure.

While it’s exciting that there is a potentially promising treatment for tinnitus in the offing, I must point out that avoiding the need for treatment is always the better option.

So remember: if it sounds too loud, it is too loud. Protect your hearing.

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.

NYC observes International Noise Awareness Day

Photo by Nicholas Santasier from Pexels

by Jeanine Botta, MPH, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

In 1996, the League for the Hard of Hearing, now the Center for Hearing and Communication, established the first Noise Awareness Day in New York City. Eventually Noise Awareness Day became International Noise Awareness Day, a day to raise global awareness about the effects of environmental noise on human health and well-being. Today that concern extends to the harms of human generated noise on wildlife.

This year, the 24th INAD will be observed around the world on April 24th. Members and friends of The Quiet Coalition will participate in multiple events that day.  One of these is Noise, Quietness, and the Healthy City, a day-long workshop at New York University featuring speakers, discussions, hearing screenings, and a sound walk. Registration is required, and you can register for each event or the entire day.

On April 20th, two members of The Quiet Coalition will lead an interactive program in observance of INAD at the Clarendon Library in East Flatbush, Brooklyn to introduce mobile phone apps as a means of contributing to “citizen science” – a way to empower people to address community noise, and to identify and preserve quiet places. Click here for to download the flyer.

And also on April 24th, volunteers from the Acoustical Society of America will hold a Science of Sound educational program at the Bedford Library in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Registration is not required, but is recommended. Click here for more information about this program.

Learn more about INAD events worldwide at the Center for Hearing and Communication and the Acoustical Society of America websites. More comprehensive historical information about INAD can be found in this Acoustics Today article.

Jeanine Botta serves on the Board of Directors of the Right to Quiet Society for Soundscape Awareness and Protection. She also serves on the International Noise Awareness Day committee of the Technical Committee on Noise within the Acoustical Society of America. Jeanine has worked as a patient educator since 2008, and has a background in public health research administration. She also maintains the Green Car Integrity blog, a meditation on cars, tech, and noise. 

 

Mainstream media finally discover noise

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

We’re delighted that The Quiet Coalition co-founder and distinguished scientist Richard Neitzel, PhD, of the Univ. of Michigan School of Public Health, is cited in the recent issue of Woman’s Day magazine.

Rick’s research is well known at respected national and international agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Those are powerful but small audiences. But his appearance in Woman’s Day magazine–with its circulation of 3.4 million American households–indicates that the health effects of noise are becoming a “mainstream” issue, one that the popular press and its millions of readers are beginning to hear about above the “noise” of all the other contentious, interesting and competing subjects they have to cover every week.

That’s progress! And it’s because of rigorous, independent research by people like Dr. Neitzel that media outlets are paying attention. Kudos Rick!

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.

Is Boston too noisy? One city councilor says “Yes!”

Photo credit: Henry Han licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report from Boston.com reports that city councilor at-large Althea Garrison is concerned about the adverse health impacts of high urban noise levels.

She’s right to be concerned. There can be no rational doubt that urban noise levels in many American cities are high enough to damage hearing, disrupt sleep, and cause hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and stress.  Anything that interferes with or disrupts sleep will cause adverse health and productivity impacts.  And noise causes stress and anxiety, too.

Kudos to Councilwoman Garrison for looking out for her fellow Bostonians. If enough people in other cities complain to their elected officials about noise, I can guarantee that laws will be enacted and enforced to make cities quieter. Because 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.

Noise pioneer introduces new noise and sound curriculum

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

In this wonderful article, to appear in a special edition of the international journal Cities & Health, The Quiet Coalition’s Arline Bronzaft, PhD, reviews her 40 years of pioneering research into the effects of noise on people. Her initial work showed that transit noise affects children’s learning.

Unlike many researchers, who appear content just to see their work published, Dr. Bronzaft realized that she had a responsibility to use what she had demonstrated to try to make the world a quieter place.

And she’s still doing that today. She has assisted the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s Education Division with the development of its noise curriculum, a Sound and Noise Module.

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.

Consumer Reports tackles tinnitus

Photo credit: Frmir licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article by Hallie Levine in Consumer Reports discusses tinnitus. The advice is generally sound, with one exception–the article states that “any noise over 85 decibels can damage hearing.” This isn’t accurate.

The auditory injury threshold is only 75-78 A-weighted decibels (dBA), and 85 dBA is the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Recommended Exposure Level for occupational noise, not a safe noise exposure level for the public. I wrote about this in the American Journal of Public Health and the NIOSH Science Blog also covered this topic.

But the basic message is correct: avoid loud noise, protect your hearing, and you won’t develop tinnitus from noise exposure.

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.

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.

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.