Noise

Is Japan really the world’s noisiest country?

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

If you’ve been to Japan, you’re likely as astonished as I am to learn that the World Health Organization recently reported Japan to be the world’s noisiest country.

Chiara Terzuolo, Japan Today, writes:

[T]he WHO recommends avoiding being exposed to noise over 53 decibels. The legal average limit in Japan is about 70, a number based on data 50 years out of date, according to Prof Matsui of Hokkaido University who spoke about the problem in an NHK feature on noise pollution in Japan.

Personally, I found major cities in Japan, like Tokyo and Hiroshima, much quieter (and more polite) than American cities like New York or Chicago. And their bullet-train stations are eerily quiet—the trains make NO noise at all, the station PA system speaks in polite whispers, and there are white-gloved attendants around urging people to stand back from the tracks because you might not notice an arriving train. So if Japan is noisy, I don’t remember it that way at all.

In fact, Japan and other Asian nations, like Korea, are far ahead of the U.S. in adopting and enforcing ‘quiet’ ordinances. Visiting there, I’ve seen noise barriers around highways that are 65 feet tall and they’re better at blocking noise from radiating into nearby neighborhoods and more attractive than the crude prison-like fences installed along U.S. highways by the Department of Transportation at a cost of millions of dollars per mile.

Nevertheless, if the World Health Organization’s report is right, it’s interesting proof that noise pollution is a very difficult problem to solve, as difficult as smog and second-hand smoke.

If that’s the case, then it will be a long, long time before we see much improvement in America—because we’ve barely begun to think about this problem.

David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Noise affects mountains, too

Photo credit: Ron Clausen licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This fascinating piece in the New York Times reports that vibrations from natural and human sources can affect geological structures. Vibrations from vehicles and helicopters may be responsible for the collapse of fragile natural arches. And one geological feature in Utah may vibrate at approximately the same frequency as the human heartbeat. Who knew?

Sound is a form of energy transmitted by vibrations in the atmosphere, water, or solid materials.  If sound can destroy geological structures, imagine what it can do to our ears.

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.

Lindbergh Foundation interviews “The Ruth Bader Ginsburg of noise”

Photo credit: Photo credit: Susan Santoro

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

The Lindbergh Foundation is run by aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh’s grandson, Erik, a prominent and outspoken activist for quieter, more efficient electric aircraft. It was my privilege several years ago to introduce Mr. Lindbergh to The Quiet Coalition co-founder, Dr. Arline Bronzaft, when we invited both to speak at a public outreach workshop on community noise.

If you know anything about Dr. Bronzaft, you know that she is a forthright, courageous, no-nonsense spokesperson who speaks truth to power and is passionately concerned about the effects of noise on people. So we’re thrilled to hear, in this interview, Mr. Lindbergh describe her as “the Ruth Bader Ginsburg of noise.”

Well-deserved and absolutely appropriate. Congratulations, Arline, for a well-deserved compliment! And thank you, Erik Lindbergh, for recognizing the contributions of this remarkable woman!

David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Where is NYC’s promised Quality-of-Life Plan?

Photo credit: Prayitno / Thank you for (12 millions +) view licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

In his Gotham Gazette article “City’s Promised Plan for Quality-of-Life Issues Yet to Materialize,” Ethan Geringer-Smith writes that the Citizen Budget Commission’s NYC Resident Feedback Survey results issued earlier this year found that 40.4% of city residents who responded “rated the city’s control of street noise as excellent or good.” Fewer residents in Manhattan, Bronx, and Brooklyn, as compared to Queens and Staten Island, rated control of street noise as excellent or good. This was a 6.1% improvement over the 2008 survey.

One question I have about this finding is this: What is meant by control of street noise? Also, considering Geringer-Smith states that “[o]verall, last year, the number of 311 noise complaints rose to nearly 437,000, up from roughly 260,000 in 2013,” I would like to know more about what types of noises people are complaining about and why wasn’t the improvement in the “control of street noise” reflected in the numbers of noise complaints. Still, Geringer-Smith states that according to the CBC’s data, residents point to noise “…as among the greatest areas of dissatisfaction in the city.”

I hope the questions raised above will be addressed in “a big study” of quality-of-life problems that Deputy Mayor of Operations Laura Anglin told Geringer-Smith her office was conducting. I would suggest that Ms. Anglin reference two studies that I was involved in that looked at different types of noise and how New York City residents’ behavior was affected by these noises, as well as State Comptroller DiNapoli’s report last year on New York City noise complaints.

Ms. Anglin, in an email to the Gotham Gazette wrote that the study’s goal was to seek out solutions. Discussing the adverse impacts of noise on health and well-being in her report would add strength to this goal.

Knowing that City Council recently passed legislation strengthening the regulation of construction noise and being aware of community residents clamoring for less noisy emergency vehicles. as well as researching and writing on the adverse effect of noise on health, I am looking forward to reading the report that will soon emanate from the Deputy Mayor’s office.

Dr. Arline Bronzaft is a researcher, writer, and consultant on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health. She is co-author of “Why Noise Matters,” author of “Listen to the Raindrops” (children’s book illustrated by Steven Parton), and has written extensively about noise in books, encyclopedias, academic journals, and the popular press.  In addition, she is a Professor Emerita of the City University of New York and Board member of GrowNYC.

 

Do-it-yourself noise mitigation at home

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I don’t generally mention commercial products in my blog posts, but I’m willing to make an exception for these sound absorbing panels from IKEA.

The article is from a UK magazine, so I don’t know if the panels are available in the U.S. yet, but it’s worth it to keep an eye out for them.  They can be hung in a room, or as a room divider, to absorb unwanted sound. And since the product if offered through IKEA, the cost shouldn’t be prohibitive.

Alternatively, heavy drapes might be a more aesthetically pleasing solution. And new urban construction often has–and should be required to have–double paned windows and sound absorbing material in the exterior walls.

So urban dwellers trying to get a good night’s sleep have noise mitigation options. But I can’t help but think about how much better our sleep could be if government actively enforced  noise regulations rather than leave the problem for each of us to deal with individually.

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.

Refuge from noise for autistic kids and adults

Photo credit: John Marino has dedicated this photo to the public domain

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

America is awakening to the special needs of kids and adults on the autism spectrum. Many are hyper-reactive to environmental noise.

A few shopping centers have introduced “quiet hours” specifically aimed at families with autistic children. Now a few airports are getting the message too.

For example, Lonely Planet reports that Pittsburgh International Airport has opened a 500 square foot “sensory room” called Presley’s Place where traveling families with autistic members can calm down and get ready to fly or de-compress after landing.

For some of us, finding a quiet place is a quest, something we simply enjoy. But for others, it’s an essential need! Let’s hope other airports get the message soon.

David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Rich foreigners causing noise issues in London

Photo credit: Adrian Dorobantu from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

A recent article discuss vehicle noise in London.

Apparently, very wealthy foreigners come to London with their Lamborghinis and other sports cars, which they then race up and down the narrow streets, causing noise problems and accidents.

£1000 fines don’t seem to deter them. So London is going to try new technology, acoustic cameras, which record the sound level and the vehicle license plate.  And, one hopes, put an end to this appalling ritual.

That sounds like a good idea to us.

Maybe this technology can be imported here.

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.

Sacred space? Museum journal devotes special issue to sound

Photo credit: Negative Space

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

Do you think of museums and zoos as places of quiet, refuge and reflection? Sure, who doesn’t? They’re invaluable when you need thinking time or just a respite from the noisy, chaotic world outside. Then this introduction to a special issue of the journal Curator will interest you. Turns out museum directors and curators have grown more interested in this subject recently—so interested that Curator’s editors devoted an entire issue of their journal to sound and noise.

Inspiring them to address this topic was The Quiet Coalition’s co-founder Arline Bronzaft, PhD, an indefatigable researcher and anti-noise advocate from New York City—and New York City is definitely a place where world-class museums offer respite and reward to millions of people. This special issue compiles 18 papers from several decades of work by researchers and museum curators on how to use quiet and sound as part of the museum experience. Here’s what journal editor John Fraser has to say:

Today, this special double issue of Curator seeks to bring to the attention of museum leaders the value of listening to our museums. Museums may be more focused on listening to their visitors, but the papers on the following pages suggest that we have a long way to go to ensure that all senses are considered an essential part of all museum experiences.

I found it fascinating, for example that the reverberant sound from the walls of a zoo enclosure significantly increased the aggressiveness of–and diminished the sexual behavior of–rhinoceros females. What lessons might we infer about humans’ increasingly violent and aggressive behavior in the crowded, glass-walled, reverberant canyons of modern city streets?

Wonderful, voluminous reading from an unexpected and very well-informed perspective. Enjoy!

David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S123-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

How the sound of buildings affects us

Photo credit: Riccardo Bresciani from Pexels

Lakshmi Sandhana, The BBC, writes about how the acoustic qualities of our homes, offices, and public spaces impacts our comfort level and may even affect our moods.

Sandhana notes that even though we rely on eyes to help us navigate our world, “our ears are constantly picking up information from our surroundings that unconsciously alters how we feel about a space.”

Fortunately, people are starting to understand that buildings and spaces need to be acoustically satisfying and not just visually attractive or useful. Writes Sandhana:

Scientific research suggests they are wise to do so. Noisy work and home settings have been proven to annoy people, and noise annoyance itself has been linked to depression and anxiety. Furthermore, issues concentrating in the workplace due to office noise and intermittent noise has been found to significantly reduce human performance.

Not to mention how noise affects our ability to enjoy a meal.

Sandhana reports that the way sound interacts with a building’s physical structure can even affect our emotions, noting, for example, that an open space can make us feel freer.

And there are whole disciplines, now, says Sandhana, that are focusing on materials and technologies that could help abate noise in cities and reduce sound pressures above recommended levels. In fact, Sandhana tells us that virtual reality systems are allowing architects to hear “how the spaces they design might sound like through ‘auralisations’ of structures using acoustic modeling software.”

It’s all very exciting. But perhaps most exciting of all is reading that sound and noise in public and private spaces may finally be getting the attention that it deserves.

 

 

Quieter equipment aids landscape sustainability

Photo credit: Peter Dutton licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article in the Westerly Sun discusses a presentation The Quiet Coalition’s Jamie Banks, PhD, MSc, made to a group in Weekapaug, Rhode Island, on the environmental impact of gas-powered equipment, its effects on human health, and what can be done about it. Banks also serves as executive director of Quiet Communities, Inc.

In her presentation, Banks explained that commercial gas-powered lawn and garden equipment, like mowers and leaf blowers, not only produce “stressful noise pollution,” but also spew a rich mix of toxic chemicals and project particulate matter into the air.

So what can be done?

Banks suggests that quieter battery-powered landscape care equipment can aid landscape sustainability and prevents auditory damage and disruption of human activities. Says Banks, “battery-powered lawn and garden equipment, including equipment for use by professional landscapers, offers a solution to many of the hazardous side effects of gas-powered machines.”

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.