Mystery noise

What to do if you hear sounds that others do not

Photo credit: bruce mars from Pexels

Finally, David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition, addressed a query from a woman who said she heard a sound in her living space that her partner insists wasn’t there:

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

The Quiet Coalition recently received an inquiry from a woman who said she hears “a nearly imperceptible high-pitched sound” in her living space. She states that she can hear the sound, but her partner insists there is no sound. “Could a smartphone-based sound-meter app isolate and identify this sound?” she asked, adding “if so, which one do you recommend?”

First, I must note that the fact that this woman hears noise but her partner does not means nothing at all. Her partner could simply have much less sensitive hearing!

We at The Quiet Coalition agree that the best step is to try to measure the sound. There are free or inexpensive sound meter apps that you can install on your smartphone, so start there. Some are better than others, but thankfully, experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tested and rated smartphone sound-meter apps, which we reported on last year.

But a smartphone app may not be sensitive enough to pick up the sound. What should you do if this is the case? The only alternative could be to find an acoustics engineer to visit your residence and use professional equipment to identify the noise and then help you identify the source. That person can also suggest some ways to address the problem—which could be a neighbor’s electronics. The National Council of Acoustical Consultants offers advice on how to select a professional, licensed acoustical engineer.

There is, however, another possibility that must be considered: hearing a high-pitched sound that no one else hears COULD mean that you have a hearing disorder called tinnitus or an acute sensitivity to sounds called hyperacusis. Tinnitus can be identified by first finding a truly quiet place, such as a library, or on a weekend retreat in the countryside, to see if you still hear the noise when you are away from the circumstances where you are aware of the sound.

40 million Americans have tinnitus (myself included), so it’s quite common. And many of us spent years assuming that the “background noises” we heard were actually coming from the environment and that everybody heard the same thing!

So we recommend that you pursue both of these steps, because exposure to noise can be stressful, can cause sleep loss, and can have other health effects.
First try to determine where an unseen source of high-pitched sound in your environment is coming from. If the sound cannot be isolated, then consider that the cause of the sound could be tinnitus or another hearing disorder that should be attended to.

Frankly, the best result would be that there really is an unseen source of high-pitched sound in the immediate environment. Why? Because that can be fixed once the source is identified. But tinnitus cannot be cured, though there are techniques for managing it—which include avoiding the kinds of exposures that may have caused it in the first place. And know that the onset of tinnitus can be quite sudden.

To learn more about tinnitus check out the American Tinnitus Association‘s website and the Clinical Practice Guideline for Tinnitus published in 2014 by the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

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.

Hearing noise? Here’s how to find out where it’s coming from

Photo credit: bruce mars from Pexels

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

The Quiet Coalition recently received an inquiry from a woman who said she hears “a nearly imperceptible high-pitched sound” in her living space. She states that she can hear the sound, but her partner insists there is no sound. “Could a smartphone-based sound-meter app isolate and identify this sound?” she asked, adding “if so, which one do you recommend?”

First, I must note that the fact that this woman hears noise but her partner does not means nothing at all. Her partner could simply have much less sensitive hearing!

We at The Quiet Coalition agree that the best step is to try to measure the sound. There are free or inexpensive sound meter apps that you can install on your smartphone, so start there. Some are better than others, but thankfully, experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tested and rated smartphone sound-meter apps, which we reported on last year.

But a smartphone app may not be sensitive enough to pick up the sound. What should you do if this is the case? The only alternative could be to find an acoustics engineer to visit your residence and use professional equipment to identify the noise and then help you identify the source. That person can also suggest some ways to address the problem—which could be a neighbor’s electronics. The National Council of Acoustical Consultants offers advice on how to select a professional, licensed acoustical engineer.

There is, however, another possibility that must be considered: hearing a high-pitched sound that no one else hears COULD mean that you have a hearing disorder called tinnitus or an acute sensitivity to sounds called hyperacusis. Tinnitus can be identified by first finding a truly quiet place, such as a library, or on a weekend retreat in the countryside, to see if you still hear the noise when you are away from the circumstances where you are aware of the sound.

40 million Americans have tinnitus (myself included), so it’s quite common. And many of us spent years assuming that the “background noises” we heard were actually coming from the environment and that everybody heard the same thing!

So we recommend that you pursue both of these steps, because exposure to noise can be stressful, can cause sleep loss, and can have other health effects.
First try to determine where an unseen source of high-pitched sound in your environment is coming from. If the sound cannot be isolated, then consider that the cause of the sound could be tinnitus or another hearing disorder that should be attended to.

Frankly, the best result would be that there really is an unseen source of high-pitched sound in the immediate environment. Why? Because that can be fixed once the source is identified. But tinnitus cannot be cured, though there are techniques for managing it—which include avoiding the kinds of exposures that may have caused it in the first place. And know that the onset of tinnitus can be quite sudden.

To learn more about tinnitus check out the American Tinnitus Association‘s website and the Clinical Practice Guideline for Tinnitus published in 2014 by the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

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.

The odd saga of the “sonic attacks” continues

Photo credit: jo.sau licensed under CC BY 2.0

Vice News writes that the U.S. government has pulled out diplomats from a station in Guangzhou, China, “after one official suffered mild traumatic brain injury, sparking fears that U.S. government personnel in China were being targeted using the same methods that forced 24 U.S. officials to flee the Caribbean island in 2017.”

As in the earlier case, there has been no official explanation, instead the authorities issue medical alerts and statements assigning blame to Cuba or Russia or China. Vice News put together a timeline of this very odd 18-month old story.  As Vice notes in one entry from January 2018:

Sen. Marco Rubio, who chaired the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing into the attacks, called the weapon being used “very sophisticated technology that does not exist in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world” — despite no evidence that these weapons exist.

Given the enormous amount of money the U.S. spends on its military and intelligence, how likely is it that no one knows exactly what these phantom “sonic weapons” are or how they operate? It just feels like there’s something missing from this ongoing story, making it hard to accept the conclusion that “sonic weapons” are the source of the “mild traumatic brain injuries,” whatever this means.  Are we being too skeptical or do you agree?

Disturb everyone else with your noise, but protect yourself

Oh the irony.

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, the Quiet Coalition

This report at Motorcycle.com lists earplugs good for motorcycle riders.

The idea of protecting your own hearing, while bothering and deafening others with your motorcycle’s noise, is ironic.

Riding a motorcycle is a dangerous pastime, and many riders believe that a louder motorcycle is a safer one because drivers of other vehicles can hear them. Most experts, however, think that’s really not true and posit that many riders just like to make as much noise as possible to show how profoundly anti-social they are.

What they–and most police departments–don’t know is that there are state and federal laws regulating motorcycle exhaust noise, and the best way to avoid noise-induced hearing loss is to reduce the noise level at its source.

So rather than offering advice on protecting hearing to those who would impose their noise on the rest of us, Motorcycle.com, why not tell your readers to respect others by removing the illegal straight-pipe exhaust systems they put on their bikes?

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and 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.

A mysterious noise bedevils Windsor, Ontario

Is Zug Island the source of the hum?   Photo credit: Tara licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The perception of low frequency sound–infrasound, usually defined as lower than 20 Hertz (cycles per second)–and its health effects are not well understood. But something is bothering the residents of Windsor, Ontario, and it’s called the Windsor hum.

For more information on the hum, here’s a Vice News video:

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and 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.

Lafayette, Indiana’s mysterious hum solved!

And Duke Energy accepts the blame.

Residents of Lafayette, Indiana were hearing a mysterious hum during a recent cold wave, and they were concerned enough to call the local police to report it. Turns out, the reason for the intermittent humming was do to the recent bitter cold temperatures. Says Duke Energy, “it’s nothing but the sound of the simple physics needed to deliver electricity during the coldest weather in the past few years in Lafayette,” adding that “[i]t’s nothing to be concerned about and there’s no danger involved.”

So there’s your answer, Lafaytte. Now get some sleep!

 

Move over Bigfoot, you may have a competitor

The Huffington Post reports that strange sounds are popping up in different parts of Canada. How strange? Listen for yourself:

Ok, we admit that if we were in the middle of the woods and heard that we would set a new record for fastest sprint the hell out of there. That said, our money is on this phenomenon turning out to be the aural version of crop circles. Expect more to come.

After Cuba can the U.S. still claim noise is just an “annoyance”?

Photo credit: Stevenbedrick licensed under CC BY 3.0

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

Are you following the Cuba episode on “weaponized sound”? If so, here’s some additional reading.

Nobody’s certain what’s going on there. Is it a hoax? A Trumpian cover for pulling the U.S. embassy out of Havana?

No. It could be both real and very ironic….

What’s interesting to those of us who are concerned about the epidemic of noise in America and the effects of that noise on everyone’s health, is this:

The official posture of several intimidatingly large U.S. federal agencies—for example the Departments of Commerce and Transportation and the EPA—is that noise is nothing more than “annoyance.” That policy has been in place for over 35 years. But if noise is merely “annoyance” how has it been “weaponized” by some foreign adversary?

The latest speculation is that the “sonic attack” in Havana might have involved “infrasound.”

Fact is, In the U.S. infrasound is poorly understood precisely because there’s been so little funding to research it. Why? Because if noise doesn’t matter, if it’s merely “annoyance,” then just ignore it. And so the U.S. has ignored noise for decades, but that may be coming to an end.

Perhaps the decades of ignoring noise and its impact on health will now change and researchers will have to unscramble some wily adversary’s “secrets” because they appear to be in use against us. Ironically, by ignoring the importance of sound and noise for nearly four decades, the U.S. has fallen behind and will have to scramble to catch up.

But that’s an old story, isn’t it?

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.

Sounds like Russian psyops to us

Zaria Gorvett, BBC.com, writes about “[t]he ghostly radio station that no one claims to run.”  Gorvett tells us that the radio station, located outside of St. Petersburg, Russia, has been on the air 24/7, seven days a week, for the past 35 years. So what does it broadcast? Not your typical radio fare. Says Gorvett:

[I]t’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.”

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

Apparently the radio station has its fans–thousands of them–even though they don’t know what they are listening to. Gorvett writes that “[t]here’s no shortage of theories to explain what the [radio station] might be for,” including the theory that it is operating as “a ‘Dead Hand’ signal. That is, in the event Russia is hit by a nuclear attack, “the drone will stop and automatically trigger a retaliation. No questions asked, just total nuclear obliteration on both sides.”

What follows is a long discussion of other theories, along with an explanation of “numbers stations,” i.e., “radio stations that broadcast coded messages to spies all over the world.” Gorvett tells us about one famous number station that was known as the “Lincolnshire Poacher,” which was the name of the English folk tune that would play at the beginning of the hour (the first two bars repeated 12 times). After the music finished playing, it was followed by “the disembodied voice of a woman reading groups of five numbers – “1-2-0-3-6” – in a clipped, upper-class English accent.”

In the end, we wonder if the station exists just to play with our heads. Or maybe it’s partly a jobs program, partly performance art? Gorvett says that many believe it’s a different type of hybrid, with the constant drone serving to keep other people from using the frequency, but in the event of a crisis, such as Russia being invaded, the station would become a numbers station. In which case, she concludes, “let’s just hope that drone never stops.”

And for once we hope the noise does not end.