Noise

How loud is too loud?

Photo credit: Your Best Digs licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

How loud is too loud? Probably between 70 A-weighted decibels (dBA) and 75 dBA, the auditory injury threshold, not the occupational noise exposure limit of 85 decibels cited in this article.

We are glad to see any publication warning about the dangers of noise and advocating use of hearing protective devices, as earplugs and earmuff hearing protectors are more broadly known, but this piece just gets the basic science wrong.

As the NIOSH Science Blog discussed in 2016, an occupational noise exposure limit is not a safe noise level for the public.

Smart phone sound level meter apps provide good to very accurate sound level measurements, but you really don’t need a sound meter to know if it’s too loud.

If it’s loud enough that you have to strain to speak or to be heard–a typical noise level when using power equipment or tools, hair dryers, kitchen mixers, or eating in many restaurants–the ambient noise is above 75 dBA and your hearing is being damaged.

And certainly if the sound level is loud enough to cause momentary pain or discomfort, or subsequent muffling or sound or ringing in the ears, you are on your way to hearing loss.

It’s easy to protect your hearing for your whole life. If it sounds too loud, it IS too loud.

Avoid loud noise or use hearing protective devices, or need hearing aids. The choice is yours.

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.

Does noise kill thousands every year?

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This piece by Richard Godwin in The Guardian discusses the health dangers of noise exposure, including increased mortality. The dangers of noise are well-known in Europe, where the Environmental Noise Directive requires European Union member states to develop and implement government policies to reduce noise exposure for their citizens. Writes Godwin:

Noise exposure has also been linked with cognitive impairment and behavioural issues in children, as well as the more obvious sleep disturbance and hearing damage. The European Environment Agency blames 10,000 premature deaths, 43,000 hospital admissions and 900,000 cases of hypertension a year in Europe on noise. The most pervasive source is road-traffic noise: 125 million Europeans experience levels greater than 55 decibels – thought to be harmful to health – day, evening and night.

Somehow, this body of knowledge has yet to reach this side of the Atlantic Ocean, even though the overwhelming majority of experts think that the scientific evidence is strong enough to establish causality, not merely a correlation or association of noise and health problems.

I am confident that when the public does learn about the dangers of noise for health–not just causing hearing loss, but also hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart attack, stroke, and death–Americans will also push their elected officials for laws and regulations to achieve a quieter environment.

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’s Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

 

Fireworks can cause hearing problems

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, the Quiet Coalition

This press release from Purdue University discusses the fact that noise from fireworks can cause hearing problems.

There are several errors in the press release. Namely, the 85 decibel noise level cited is an occupational noise exposure standard that isn’t safe for the public nor is it meant to be a standard for the general public. But the main thrust of the piece is a good, general warning that loud noise is bad for the ears.

And the advice offered by Anne Sommer, an audiology clinical instructor at Purdue, that double hearing protection–foam ear plugs and ear muffs–should be used when setting off personal fireworks is sound.

I would only add that if double protection is needed for an unnecessary task, the more prudent option is to avoid exposure. After all, one really shouldn’t set off personal fireworks unless one is willing to accept the loss of an eye or a finger. Fireworks, which are banned in Los Angeles, are inherently dangerous and are really best left to the pros.

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’s Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

NYC’s public data program shows noise is number one 311 complaint

, Civicist, writes about the New York City Council’s new 311 calls and requests map. The map is one of many that provides visualizes data “to make district information more easily accessible to lawmakers, advocates and the broader public.” The 311 calls map allows the viewer to see how many calls to 311 in the last month were for common complaints.  No surprise, noise is a top complaint, so much so that they offer three categories–noise, noise–residential, and noise-commercial–to further categorize the complaint.

This data project is a good step towards allowing easy access to important information.  Armed with the data, maybe government can finally do something about the most common complaint.

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?

Is your noise making me fat? – Part II

Photo credit: Magnus D licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I used to joke that a great headline to get attention paid to noise would be the one at the top of the page, based on research showing that transportation noise increases stress hormones, in turn leading to obesity and diabetes. ( Here’s a link to one of the studies showing people exposed to transportation noise had larger waist circumferences.)

But this report shows that in addition to making it difficult for patrons to carry on conversations while dining, loud background music in restaurant increases the selection of higher calorie “comfort food” menu options.

It’s a rare restaurant these days where one can converse–if one can converse at all–without straining to speak or to be heard.

That means that the ambient noise is above 75 A-weighted decibels, which is also the auditory injury threshold, and that means that diners’ hearing is being damaged.

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 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.

Federal judge upholds city’s noise ordinance

Photo credit: Tony Hisgett licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

From time to time The Quiet Coalition gets inquiries or requests for help in dealing with local noise problems. Each one of these situations is very different, from airplane noise to noise from factories, and TQC can only offer general advice:

1. Research the local noise ordinances.

2. Figure out which person at which agency is responsible for handling noise complaints.

3. Document each and every violation of the noise ordinance, with copies to elected officials for the jurisdiction(s) involved and to local news media.

4. Involve local news media if possible.

5. Involve local schools with noise measurement, documentation, and reporting being part of class projects beginning with fourth or fifth grade and going up through high school.

While this advice doesn’t always get the result the inquirer wants, things are beginning to change and decision makers–whether at the city, state, or federal level–are starting to take noise seriously.  And as this report shows, sometimes the courts will uphold enforcement of local noise control and nuisance abatement ordinances.

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.

Tips on fixing annoying noise issues at home

 

Photo credit: FWStudio from Pexels

Nancy Mitchell, Apartment Therapy, offers tips on how to quiet five annoying noises at home, from squeaky floorboards and a creaky door to a noisy radiator.  Click the link to learn about what you can do to make your home a quieter, relaxing oasis.

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.