Noise and wildlife

Noise pollution is endangering marine life


Photo credit: Eulinky licensed under CC BY 2.0

and stressing out aquatic animals, writes Jean-Pierre Chigne, Tech Times. Chigne reports on research from the University of Saskatchewan focused on noise pollution’s effect on marine life which concludes “that noise pollution can limit an animal’s ability to process chemical information released after an attack on shoal mates.” Chigne notes that “[f]ish make noises such as chirps, pops, knocks, and grunts using their teeth, swim bladders, or fins,” and noise can interfere with a “fish’s ability to hear the sounds that other fish make.” Noise, he concludes, can “distract and confuse fish, which can potentially cause them death.”

It’s a depressing read, but important.  Do click the first link to read the entire article.

Hear livestreaming audio from 4,000 feet below the ocean

Photo credit: Matt McGee licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

courtesy of researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute via an ultra-sensitive microphone, a hydrophone, that was installed about 20 miles off the California coast in 2015. The “audio is amplified so you can hear it with normal speakers, but some creatures — like the baleen whale — require high-quality headphones or a subwoofer to hear the low frequency vocalizations.” Depending on when you tune in, you may hear nothing or you could hear “whales, dolphins, sea lions, boats, rain, wind, earthquakes, and other sounds.”

Intrigued? Click here to listen in:

Pooping, noisy crows vex Trenton, New Jersey

Apparently 30,000 loud, pooping crows are annoying Trenton residents who are tired of the crows waking them up and pooping everywhere. So what is the city going to do to get them to leave? According to NBC New York, the city is turning to “high tech” to get rid of them.  Specifically, the city deploying “pyrotechnics, lasers, spotlights, amplified recordings of crow distress calls and crow effigies” to convince their unwanted guests to leave. Desperate times call for desperate measures.


The only instance where having noisy neighbors is a good thing

Photo credit: Anker A and Grave S licensed under CC BY 3.0

Noisy shrimp may be helping gray whales find their prey.  Jes Burns,, writes about snapping shrimp, a variety of shrimp researchers at Oregon State University have heard, but not seen. How do these shrimp make so much sound?  Burns writes:

There’s a popping static created by thousands of shrimp claws pushing out jets of water at extremely high speed. The speed and disturbance create a tiny bubble that immediately collapses, creating a noise so loud and strong it can to stun prey a few inches away.

The researchers noticed that “the rocky areas where the shrimp live are also home to swarms of tiny zooplankton that whales love,” which made them wonder whether the whales use the shrimp as a tool to find food since they use sound to find prey. More study will be done to determine whether the hypothesis is correct.

And if, in the interim, you want to hear was thousands of snapping shrimp sound like, click below:

Listen to “What Snapping Shrimp Sound Like” on Spreaker.

Death by noise

Photo credit: Rickard Zerpe licensed under CC BY 2.0

Amy Mitchell-Whittington, The Age, reports that boat noise could be distracting young reef fish and getting them eaten.

How? A study shows that exposing young Ambon damselfish to boat noise “disrupted learning behaviour,” and fish exposed to boat noise “were more likely die within 72 hours of being released into the wild.”


That’s the subject of the next study.



Another promising lead for repairing hearing loss

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article reports yet another promising lead for repairing hearing loss from research done at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Sea anemones can repair hair cells on their tentacles that respond to vibration. Fish have similar hair cells on their scales that help them respond to currents in the water as well as to detect prey and avoid predators. Researcher Glen Watson, PhD, found that a protein made by sea anemones helped repair damaged hair cells, first in experiments done in fish and then in hair cells from mice. The hope is that this protein can eventually be used to help repair hair cells in humans.

This is another interesting development with potential to eventually lead to a treatment for hearing loss. But shouldn’t we focus on the cause of hearing loss, too? We already know that noise damages hair cells, leading to hearing loss, and it’s a whole lot easier and cheaper to prevent noise-induced hearing loss by avoiding loud noise exposure or protecting one’s ears if exposure cannot be avoided.

So while it is exciting to see that researchers are getting closer to finding a treatment for hearing loss, let’s not ignore a fact that requires no additional research:

Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable.

Remember: your ears are like your eyes or your knees. God only gave you two of them. Protect them well, because you need them to last a whole lifetime!

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.

The changing sound of earth

Claire Asher, the BBC, writes about how the world sounds different than it did a century ago. And the reason is not benign–climate change has had a dramatic effect on the oceans, for example,

How big is the impact, really? Bigger than one might expect. Writes Asher:

In 2015, a US team of scientists and engineers reported that the loudest sound in some waters now comes from millions of tiny bubbles, which are released by melting glaciers and icebergs. In the fjords of Alaska and Antarctica, the average noise level is now over 100 decibels – louder than any ocean environment recorded before.

Click the link to read the full article.  The changing soundscape is a warning sign, as “Earth’s natural soundscape is changing irreversibly, and human activity is driving the process.”

Human noise takes its toll on birds

Sarah Kaplan, The Washington Post, reports that some birds are so stressed by noise pollution that “it looks like they have PTSD.”  Kaplan writes that scientists researching birds living near noisy natural gas treatment facilities in New Mexico discovered from sampling the birds’ blood that they had “the same physiological symptoms as a human suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.” Said Rob Guralnick, associate curator of biodiversity informatics at the Florida Museum of Natural History, “[n]oise is causing birds to be in a situation where they’re chronically stressed . . . and that has really huge health consequences for birds and their offspring.”

And humans?  The researchers took their findings to Christopher Lowry, a stress physiologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who was not surprised by the results–“it’s what you would expect in a creature exposed to prolonged, persistent strain.”  So does the study’s findings have implications about the effect of noise on human health?  Kaplan writes:

To Lowry, the fact that humans respond to stress in the same manner as animals as distantly related as birds suggests that this response is ancient and deeply ingrained. And it raises questions about how humans handle exposure to unrelenting noise. The mother bluebird that nested near a compressor and was unable to leave when the sound became unbearable may not be so different from a low-income human family forced to rent an apartment near a flight path or loud industrial site.

Ultimately, being under an aural assault is bad for any living thing’s health and well-being.  Says Lowry, “[t]here’s evidence that being able to have a full auditory experience is essential for optimal health in both species.”