Noise

How to minimize your noise footprint

Photo credit: Cameron Casey from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I hadn’t thought about how much noise I make–I’m pretty sure I don’t make much except occasional hammering and power tool use when doing yard and household maintenance–until I read this article by Paige Towers in The Guardian that introduces the concept of a person’s noise footprint.

We talk about our carbon footprint and what those concerned about climate change can do to try to reduce theirs, but we should think about how much noise we make, too. The amount of carbon dioxide and related substances each person produces from fossil fuel use affects the world, including humans and animals.  So does the amount of noise we each produce.

As Ms. Towers points out, some noise production is inevitable, but if we have a choice to use a quieter alternative, we should make that choice. And her call for noise activism is exactly what I’ve encouraged for years.  If we all do our part, the world will be a quieter, healthier place.

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.

Aircraft noise is a problem inside the plane, too

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This piece in the Wall Street Journal discusses the problem of noise inside the airplane cabin, not just under Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen flight paths.

Airplane cabins can be made quieter. The Airbus A380, soon to stop production, is the largest passenger airplane and also one of the quietest inside. Maybe other aircraft manufacturers can do more to design quieter planes, too.

Until they do, I will continue to wear my noise-cancelling headphones when I fly.

I recommend that you do the same.

Thanks to Bryan Pollard at Hyperacusis Research, Ltd. for letting us know about this article.

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.

Music festival noise stresses out research fish

Photo credit: Kathy licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report in the Miami Herald discusses how noise from the Ultra Music Festival “stressed out” fish kept at the University of Miami for research purposes. Toadfish, a common species in Miami’s Biscayne Bay, were more stressed than if they had heard the clicking sounds made by dolphins, which are a major predator for toadfish.

“So what we’re talking about here and what our data show presently is that Ultra was causing a short-term acute stress on our fish,” said Danielle McDonald, a University of Miami associate professor. “We don’t know and we cannot conclude whether this stress would have persisted over time,” she added.

I’m pretty sure the stress would have persisted.  Animals evolved in quiet, with sound detection being an important method of finding food for predator species, or avoiding being eaten for prey species.

In humans, noise exposure causes involuntary physiological stress responses, including increases in heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormone levels, and vascular inflammation

The one question I haven’t seen answered is whether voluntary noise exposure causes the same physiological stress responses as involuntary noise exposure. The fish obviously didn’t want to attend the rock concert, but the lab facility in which they lived was close enough to the music festival that they had to hear the music. Did the same changes occur in those who paid their hard-earned money to attend the festival?

If anyone has seen a research study answering this question, please let us know.

Thanks to Sherilyn Adler, PhD, at the Ear Peace Foundation in Miami, Florida for bring this article to our attention.

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.

How to deal with a snorer

Photo credit: Joshua Hayworth licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Helmut of NoisyWorld tests the “snore blocking performance” of two Bose noise-cancelling headphones and declares the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 a winner.  Says Helmut, “[t]he Bose QC35 noise cancelling headphones (QC35) block[ed] out enough of even loud snoring to allow me fall and stay asleep.”

If you have a partner or roommate who snores, click the link to learn Helmut’s “recipe” for snore-blocking sleep!

Noise affects children’s learning

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This wonderful piece by noise pioneer Arline Bronzaft, PhD, one of The Quiet Coalition’s founders, summarizes her work and the work of others on how noise affects children’s learning.

Noise interferes with human function by disturbing concentration and interfering with communication. The EPA determined that “library quiet”– that is, a 45 dBA ambient noise level–is necessary to allow 100% speech intelligibility (see text at Figure D-1). Not surprisingly, when transportation noise intrudes into the classroom, children can’t hear what the teacher says, and this interferes with their learning.

Dr. Bronzaft’s article includes links to her groundbreaking work.

The Acoustical Society of America and the American National Standards Institute developed a standard for classroom acoustics, and more information is available at this link.

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.

NYU celebrates International Noise Awareness Day

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

April 25 marked the twenty-fourth annual International Noise Awareness Day—now a global event originating in New York City in the mid-1990s that has gained significant momentum.

On April 24, New York University’s Bobst Library, facing Washington Square Park in NYC, was the locus of this year’s INAD festivities. Superbly organized by Quiet Coalition co-founders Dr. Antonella Radicchi and Dr. Arline Bronzaft along with NYU researcher and technologist Prof. Tae Hong Park, the program featured six speakers, a “sound-walk,” and a discussion group.

Congratulations to the organizers for a superbly organized event and a beautiful spring day in NYC!

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.

Urban noise is “the absolute scourge of our time”

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Guardian recently published a fascinating article by Thomas McMullan in which he said that cities are louder than ever and noted that the poor suffer the most. That article got an enormous amount of attention and “prompted a huge response,” so there was a follow-up piece in which the newspaper shared some of the best responses.  While one of the respondents embraced urban noise saying that “cities are people and life and they make noise,” every other commenter disagreed, with one exclaiming that “[n]oise pollution is the absolute scourge of our time.”

Some noise is a necessary accompaniment to urban living, but excessive noise isn’t. And solutions are available if the political will exists. Namely, enforcement of existing noise ordinances, especially for vehicle exhaust noise, revision of building codes to require sound insulation and double-paned windows, and quieter sirens would be good first steps.

I believe that if enough people complain to their elected officials about urban noise, something can be done about it.

And something must be done about noise, because urban noise isn’t just a nuisance–in many cities it is loud enough to damage hearing, and the World Health Organization recognizes is as a major health hazard.

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.

The scourge that is electric hand dryers

Photo credit: Travis Wise licensed under CC BY 2.0

Llyod Alter, the design editor at Treehugger, recently asked whether Dyson electric hand dryers were “the world’s worst design object.” In his post, Alter quotes Mark Lamster, architecture critic for the Dallas News, who called the Dyson Airblade “the most abhorrent work of design in recent memory.”  What drove Lamster to this conclusion?  Noise was first and foremost. Said Lamster:

For starters, the Dyson Airblade is deafening. Running a Dyson Airblade is the aural equivalent of standing on an airport runway while a 747 throttles up for takeoff. That’s because the machine works not by using heat, but by blowing air at such velocity that it “scrapes” the water off your hands. (This is its supposed advantage over conventional, hot-air hand dryers, which are also awful.)

Alter eventually disagrees with Lamster after doing an analysis that compares the global warming burden of electric hand dryers versus paper towels. Not surprisingly, the hand dryer over its life time produces a smaller burden than using paper towels over the same period. Of course, we think one should also weigh the consequences of having “aerosolized fecal matter” spewed about, but maybe we are just a bit too sensitive.

So, is the Dyson the world’s worst design object? We say no.  Why?  Because that title belongs to the Xlerator, our hand drying nemesis.

What is a safe noise exposure level for the public?

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

What is a safe noise exposure level for the public?

That seems like an easy question, but the answer wasn’t obvious in 2014 when I became a noise activist, trying to make the world a quieter place. My interest was in preventing auditory disorders. (I’ve since learned that noise has non-auditory health effects, too, at lower noise levels, but my focus always is on auditory health.)

The internet didn’t help much. Most links found used the 85 decibel (dB) standard, because the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders stated, and still states, that “[l]ong or repeated exposure to sound at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.” This didn’t seem right to me, because I have hyperacusis and sound levels much over 75 dB hurt my ears.

It took me a year to learn that the 85 dB standard comes from the NIOSH noise criteria (pdf) and isn’t a safe noise level for the public, and not for workers, either.

Now, when one searches for “safe noise level” or “safe noise level for the public,” the overwhelming majority of links cite my several publications on this topic. As I have written, the only evidence-based safe noise exposure level to prevent hearing loss is a time-weighted average of 70 dB for 24 hours, but for a variety of reasons the real safe exposure level has to be lower.

The 85 dB standard lives on, zombie-like, refusing to die, but at least accurate information about the safe noise level to prevent hearing loss is now widely accessible.

I hope accurate information about safe noise levels will empower the public to demand quiet, before we all lose our 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.

On being silent in a noisy world

Photo credit: Robert Aakerman

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I thought that Gal Beckerman’s essay, “The Case for Covering Your Ears in Noisy Times,” would be about the medical and scientific evidence for using hearing protection devices to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. But fortunately I was wrong. The wonderful essay and book review in the New York Times discusses the importance of being silent and of hearing silence in a noisy world.

Not speaking is part of many meditative religious and philosophical traditions, as is enforced silence.

But me? I’m not so extreme.  All I want is a little more quiet!

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.