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A new beginning

Photo credit: Bella White from Pexels

This site began on June 12, 2015, when I wrote my first post about noise and how noise affected me. A few years before that post, I was diagnosed with hyperacusis, a sensitivity to certain frequencies and ranges of environmental sound that most people find to be normal. I assumed that other people existed who were also sensitive to sound or otherwise were concerned about our increasingly noisy world and its effects on health and well being.

Shortly after the post was published, I was contacted by Bryan Pollard, the founder of Hyperacusis Research, Ltd., who put me in contact with a small group of like-minded people concerned about the effects of noise on health.  We agreed to work together on a project we called The Quiet Coalition, which was a program under Quiet Communities, Inc., founded by Jamie Banks, MSc, PhD.  Together with Dr. Daniel Fink and David M Sykes, we set up the group, reached out to academics, lawyers, scientists, and doctors who were dedicated to spreading the word about the damage noise does to our health and the health of all living things.  We were very quickly joined by an impressive group of colleagues, including Dr. Arline Bronzaft, the doyenne of noise, Prof. Richard Neitzel, University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, and Dr. Antonella Radicchi, Senior Research Associate and HEAD-Genuit Foundation Fellow at the Technical University of Berlin, among many others.

From that rather humble beginning, I’ve become increasingly involved with this small but dedicated group. Together we are committed to raising awareness and providing resources to help inform policy and decisionmaking. My role has been to look for stories and news about noise and sound, particularly those dealing with the health aspects of noise. I’ve learned a lot.

Since 2015, Quiet Communities’ influence has grown, and we recognize that now is the time to take it to the next level.  There is a new administration in D.C., and after the lockdown last year–and the quiet it brought–more people have begun to realize that our world is simply too loud. As a first step on this new path, Quiet Communities has launched a new website that highlights each of its four programs: Quiet Coalition, Quiet Outdoors, Quiet Healthcare, and Quiet Conversation.

I’m excited to be making a move that I hope will bring more attention to The Quiet Coalition.  Namely, the work I do here on Silencity will now be done on The Quiet Coalition website.  The content will continue to focus on noise and sound and how they affect humans and the natural world.  Silencity, the website, will end, but its mission will continue.

It’s been a real pleasure working on this site for the past five years.  I hope you will join us at The Quiet Coalition.

Gina M. Briggs

Cities and Memory explores Dante’s Inferno

This image from the Metropolitan Museum is in the public domain

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Artists depicted the plague in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, in both paintings and literature. Pieter Breugel The Elder’s The Triumph of Death is one example, and Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron is another.

The year 2020 has been a hellish year, even for those who have remained healthy, haven’t lost a loved one to COVID-19, and have been able to work from home while watching the stock market rise. But for far too many Americans, there were empty places at the Thanksgiving table, they haven’t been able to work from home if they still have a job, and they don’t own assets. No person is an island, and even if one is healthy and financially secure, one can’t travel, can’t go to a movie or a restaurant or the theater, and much of the enjoyment in life is gone.

To mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Cities and Memory asked, “What could be a more appropriate project to end 2020 than creating the sounds of Hell itself?” They asked more than 80 artists from all over the world to bring Dante’s vision of Hell to life through sound.

The interactive map of Dante’s Hell with carefully created sounds is well worth spending at least a few minutes on.

I enjoyed it, and I hope you do, too.

And I think everyone will join me in hoping for a better year in 2021.

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.

Queens Community Board targets noisy car racing

Photo credit: mike noga from Pexels

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

The pandemic has brought about a changed soundscape; in some cases resulting in less noise impacting on residents and in other cases more noise. In Astoria, Queens, car stunts and car racing have become the new normal, according to Queens Community Board 52 member Lisa Rozner, and so has the overwhelming noise accompanying these stunts and races. To the delight of residents impacted by such noises, Rozner’s complaint led one parking lot’s owner to respond by putting up “no loitering” signs in the lot. The residents then reported “quiet for the first time in months.”

But other Queens neighborhoods are still being subjected to the loud noises of these raceway meetups. The racers have mapped out their paths along Queens streets and the residents are not only subjected to noise but to driving that in one case resulted in a vehicle slamming into a property. One resident said that these drivers are not fearful of being caught because police officers have not been attending to this problem. The NYPD in the community acknowledged awareness of the situation.

In response to community complaints, Councilman Jimmy van Bramer is working with the city’s Department of Transportation about changes to the roadways which could include installing “speed cushions” and encouraging slower speeds.

As I have written in an earlier blog, residents in Manhattan and Westchester have also been complaining about these loud, intrusive car races and that legislation to restrict this behavior has been introduced at the state level. Unfortunately, there has been no significant movement regarding this legislation. I can only urge city and state legislators to pay greater attention to this activity and recognize that noise is hazardous to mental and physical health and well-being.

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.

Could wearing a mask protect your hearing?

Photo credit: Anna Shvets from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

COVID-19 (technically SARS-CoV-2) is a novel coronavirus first detected less than a year ago. Because it is new, no one has immunity to it, leading to a worldwide pandemic. And also because it is new, physicians, public health experts, virologists, and many others have much to learn about it.

Two recent articles add to this knowledge.

One, in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, reports that COVID-19 was isolated from mastoid bone and middle ear tissue. The other, in BMJ Case Reports, described a case of sudden irreversible hearing loss ascribed to COVID-19 infection.

It is well known that respiratory viruses can affect the middle and inner ear. Now we know this is also true for COVID-19.

Could wearing a mask to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 also protect your hearing?

Based on these two articles, I think the answer is, “Yes.”

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.

One teen’s efforts to update the Americans With Disabilities Act

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I recently wrote about Bryan Pollard’s efforts to bring hyperacusis to the attention of the ENT research community, asking the question, “Can one person make a difference?” The answer clearly was, “Yes.”

Today I’m writing about another single-handed effort to bring about change, also about hyperacusis.

Hyperacusis is a condition that causes a person to be unable to tolerate everyday noise levels without discomfort or pain. And a teen named Jemma-Tiffany with this condition is trying to get another section, Title VI, added to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As she writes, “[t]his addition to the ADA would Require that all services, facilities, activities either provide a person who has a condition who would otherwise be in pain, ill, or unable to participate due to the sensory and other environmental factors with either an accessible virtual option, modify the sensory or other environmental factors to meet their needs, or provide them with a separate specialized environment to meet their needs.*”*

She has met with one of her senators and will meet the other, and her congressional representative, soon.

Environmental modifications intended specifically to help those with disabilities really make life better for all. Two examples are the ADA lever-style door handle, which makes doors easier for everyone to open, and curb cuts and wheelchair ramps that make life easier for parents pushing a baby stroller, or delivery workers with a cart of packages, or repair technicians with heavy equipment on wheels.

And a more accessible or quieter world mandated by an ADA Title VI will be a better and more enjoyable place for all.

We hope Jemma-Tiffany is successful in her efforts.

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.