Sound

Silence, please! Is it really possible to mute the world?

Photo credit: Kat Jayne from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

In a word, no. But this fascinating essay mentions a 1957 science fiction story by Arthur C. Clarke predicting a machine that does that, and now scientists are working on actualizing that idea.

We’ll see how successful they are, and of course how much the new technology costs. But it seems to me that it’s much simpler to use existing technologies, or even just to enforce existing noise ordinances, than to try to develop a whole new technology. Acoustic technology is highly developed. Reduce noise at the source by design and material choices, and if that can’t be done, insulate, isolate, reflect, or contain the sound. And laws to reduce harmful and unwanted noise have long existed, including building codes, zoning codes, federal laws about vehicle mufflers, local laws about horn use, etc.

As noise pioneer Arline Bronzaft PhD wrote many years ago, it’s a matter of will, not of way, to make the world a quieter and more enjoyable place for all.

I sent these remarks to Dr. Bronzaft as a courtesy, to make sure she wanted to be quoted and to make sure I got it right. She replied with a wonderful insight: people don’t want silence, they want quiet so they can hear others talk, hear the raindrops fall, hear birds singing.

Of course, she’s right!

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 BBC dabbles in slow radio

The BBC is getting into “slow radio.” What is slow radio? According to Rosie Spinks, Quartz, The BBC‘s Radio 3 programming “will invite listeners to relax to the sounds of Irish cows being herded up a mountain and leaves crunching on walks through the country.” Alan Davey, Radio 3 Controller, says the programming with provide the audience with “a chance for quiet mindfulness.” Spinks notes that the programming sounds a lot like autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, which is “the subjective experience of ‘low-grade euphoria’ characterized by ‘a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin.'” Or sounds that make you feel good.

According to Spinks, the slow radio programs will feature a range of sounds “from the animal murmurings of a zoo at dusk to one of the UK’s largest collections of clocks,” and “[o]n Christmas Eve, listeners can look forward to hearing a three-hour walk through the Black Forest in southwest Germany.”

Radio 3 already has a few offerings for you to enjoy via iPlayer radio, but, sadly, it’s not yet available in the U.S.

Tourists complain French cicadas are ‘too loud’

We understand. Cicadas can be loud and a forest full of them can be overwhelming. But the tourists accusing the insects of destroying their vacations need to reel it in a bit. The mayor of Beausset said that five different groups came to speak to him because they were being annoyed by the sound of the cicadas from morning to night. Said the mayor, “[f]or them the song is an infernal noise — crac-crac-crac — and they cannot understand that it is like music to the ears of us southerners.”

The cicada haters are joined by other tourists to rural France who “were ridiculed for asking for the bells on the village church to be silenced because they kept waking them at seven in the morning.”

When in Rome….

UK supermarket starts quiet hour for people with autism

Photo credit: Steve F licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

People with autism are bothered by noise, so the British supermarket chain Morrison’s is implementing a weekly quiet hour to help them shop.

Many other shoppers are bothered by noise, including those of us with tinnitus and hyperacusis, and people with hearing loss. In fact, loud ambient noise makes it difficult if not impossible for people to converse, even those with normal hearing.

We know that retail studies show that loud background music encourages people to spend money, but we think that most people want quiet, and  loud background music drives many adults away from restaurants and stores.

And we know for sure that loud noise causes hearing loss, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease–the scientific evidence is incontrovertible.

If enough shoppers complain to store managers about unwanted and unneeded noise, perhaps stores will become quieter.

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 use of sound in medicine

Photo credit: Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Sound has medical uses. Music therapy has been used for decades, as has diagnostic ultrasound, e.g., echocardiography, gallbladder, and kidney ultrasound, and therapeutic ultrasound has been used in physical therapy.

Now, this report from NPR discusses the use of focused sound waves to ablate damaged brain tissue, relieving a farmer of a trembling hand.

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.