Public health

Loud noises are bad for health

Photo credit: Kevin Payravi licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I think everyone knows that enough exposure to loud noise can damage hearing–even if most people don’t think it will happen to them–but few know that noise has major non-auditory health effects.

This report from HealthLine provides an excellent summary of these adverse health effects, including a weakened immune system, irritability and anxiety, difficulty sleeping and male fertility problems.

For many years, secondhand smoke was viewed as a minor nuisance and those who complained about it as weak, neurotic, unhappy complainers, or radical environmentalists. Only when the Environmental Protection Agency classified environmental tobacco smoke (as secondhand smoke is technically known) as a Class A carcinogen with no known safe exposure level was the public empowered to demand smoke free restaurants, stores, workplaces, and transportation. I think that public awareness of noise as a health hazard will similarly empower us to demand a quieter world.

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.

That this exists is a disgrace

Photo credit: Darin Marshall licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

There are some people in this country who believe making the loudest sound is some sort of achievement to be celebrated. They are, of course, wrong. Case in point, this ridiculous and dangerous “contest” described in the Star Tribune has to be one of the most ignorant and dangerous of these foolish displays yet: Minnesota’s extreme car stereo fans compete to see how loud they can go.

How loud are the cars? Said one deranged participant, “I’m hoping for 166 [decibels]-plus.” Keep in mind the noise level of a jet plane from 100 feet away is a mere 135 dB, and the permissible noise exposure limit for 130-to-140 dB is “less than 1 second.” Every participant and observer attending this misguided event is surely destroying their hearing.

For those who think we are being a bit hyperbolic, consider that the noise level is loud enough to affect the car frame. The Star Tribune reports that “[t]he sound waves from these stereo systems are so powerful they can literally raise the roof, causing the metal car bodies to visibly flex and vibrate and the windshield wipers to bounce off the glass.”

So congratulations to all the participants who spent their disposable cash chasing the dream. Perhaps the winner can put the prize money towards a pair of hearing aids, because there is no cure for hearing loss.

Hearing loss in young people changes brain function

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Since I became a noise activist and started learning about the dangers of noise, I have been predicting an epidemic of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in young people due to their ubiquitous use of personal music players with associated headphones or earbuds, often turned up loud enough to annoy me when they walk past. This article reports that young adults with subtle hearing loss also have brain function changes detected on functional MRI scans.

We don’t just hear sound with our ears. We have to process the information from the ear in the brain. According to this study, hearing loss makes the brain work harder.

There is a well-known association between hearing loss and dementia, with worse hearing being correlated with a greater risk of developing dementia. And it now looks like this problem starts in early adulthood, not late in life.

So unfortunately, I’m going to predict that there will not only be an epidemic of NIHL when today’s young people reach midlife–in their 40s and 50s, not in their 60s, 70s, and 80s–but there will also be an epidemic of early-onset dementia.

When will the public health authorities and regulators–the FDA, CDC, and Consumer Product Safety Commission–take necessary action to protect our young people?

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.

Montana county looks to limit noisy bitcoin mining

 

The Independent Record reports that Missoula County is considering limiting bitcoin mining operations “amid concerns over noise, the amount of energy used by the cryptocurrency mining operations, and how that energy consumption could affect consumers.” Turns out mining virtual currency causes real life problems, like imposing a permanent hum on the neighbors generated by “the hundreds of fan blades” used to cool the mining factories.

But as much as we are appalled by ridiculous activities that make noise, this is quantifiably more horrible: The Independent Record states that “mining a single bitcoin takes as much electricity as it does to power the average American household for two years.”

Noise is usually a sign that something is wrong in a system.  That seems loud and clear here.

Preventing hearing loss in music students

Photo credit: Matt Jolly licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Many occupations have workplace hazards associated with the work performed, and different specialties have developed to deal with these hazards, occupational medicine, industrial hygiene, and workers compensation law among them.

Hearing loss is the most common occupational injury. One usually thinks of hearing loss as a problem for factory workers, or construction workers, or airport workers, but it’s also a problem for musicians and music students. This article reports on what audiologists at Duke University are doing to help curb hearing loss in music students.

Sounds like a good idea to us!

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.

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.

A novel approach to addressing noise pollution

 

Photo credit: The All-Nite Images licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A Brooklyn startup ‘listens in’ on downtown Brooklyn noise. Mary Frost, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, reports that “NYU’s startup Sounds of New York City is developing an acoustic sensor network and installing it on lampposts along Fulton Street.”  The sensors are a “collaboration between Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and local tech startups” that are working together to bring “smart city” technology to downtown Brooklyn.

No doubt the data Sounds of New York City collects will be useful for those who want the city to do more to address noise.  But the startup wants to do more, as it aims to analyze “patterns of noise” across the city and–this is exciting–“maybe track violations through an automated system.”

The best of luck to you Sounds of New York City.

Loud motorcycle noise is a health hazard

The photographer, Muzzi Katz, has dedicated this image to the public domain.

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the home of Harley-Davidson, discusses motorcycle noise as either a sweet sound or a nuisance.

Motorcycle noise is neither. It is a health and public health hazard.

Most motorcycles are noisy enough to cause hearing loss, both to riders and to passers-by.  And most motorcycle noise is loud enough to disrupt sleep. Uninterrupted sleep is important for good health.

Many states have specific laws governing vehicle noise, including motorcycle exhausts, and most cities have noise ordinances as well.

If motorcycle noise is a problem in your city or town, ask your mayor and city council member and police chief to enforce local and state noise ordinances.

I just sent an email to the mayor of my city about this. You should do the same where you live.

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.

Dr. Erica Walker takes on Boston’s noise

Photo credit: Robbie Shade licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Boston Globe looks at the important work conducted by Dr. Erica Walker, research scientist and creator of the NoiseScore app, who is tackling Boston’s noise head on.  As writer Chris Berdik states, “Walker may know more about noise in Boston than anyone.” And because she also knows about the dangers of noise, Walker is dedicated to informing the public about this “little-studied pollution.”  As Berdik writes:

New research by Walker and others suggests that noise doesn’t just hurt our hearing. Chronic noise exposure floods the body with stress hormones that can lead to higher blood pressure, more blood clots, and a greater likelihood of heart problems and stroke.

Berdik says that Walker believes public health researchers “don’t take noise seriously enough, particularly in the United States,” and that her goal it to change that by “starting with creating a more comprehensive measure of noise exposure”

We applaud Dr. Walker’s hard work and dedication in protecting our public health.

London’s Heathrow ranks airlines by noise ratings

Photo credit: Paul Hudson licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Many of us frequent flyers use Heathrow (airport code LHR) as an entry point to Europe, especially those of us from the west coast.

In 2017, LHR ranked was the seventh busiest airport in the world, with 78 million passengers passing through it.

LHR just released noise rankings for the airlines using its space. There are a number of rankings–noise per passenger seat and noise ratings by airplanes flown are two–but what is probably the most important noise rating, number of noisy flights per airline or average noise rating per flight for each airline, is missing.

Maybe an American airport or the Federal Aviation Administration can lead the way on these measurements in the U.S.?

Just a thought!

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.