Silencity

The Truth About Noise

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A tragic case of misophonia

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She could hear everything, and it cost her her life.  Joyce Cohen writes about Dr. Michelle Lamarche Marrese, a “beautiful and brilliant, a Russian historian with several advanced degrees and the author of an acclaimed academic book on women’s property rights,” who committed suicide this past October.  Friends assumed her suicide was due to depression over her “unraveling marriage,” by Cohen knew the actual reason behind Marrese’s untimely death: “it was her hidden battle with misophonia — or ‘selective sound sensitivity syndrome.’”  How did Cohen know this?  Because Marrese emailed her “desperately seeking advice after [Cohen] wrote a story on the mysterious condition for the New York Times,” and they “corresponded extensively.”

Click the link to read more about misophonia and Marrese’s battle with the disease.

Thanks to Charles Shamoon for the link.

Smart skin patch listens to your body sounds,

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from heart to gut.  New Scientist reports on a new “electronic tattoo” that picks up noises inside the human body, including “sounds made by the heart, muscles, and gastrointestinal tract.”  The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign research team behind the electronic tattoo believe it “could be useful for monitoring a broad range of medically significant sounds,”  including “keep[ing] tabs on biological implants [and] alerting doctors to potential medical issues or mechanical failures.”

Link via @QuietMark.

Electric cars must make noise after September 2019:

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“Quiet Car” rule will require all electric vehicles to make noise, so pedestrians can better hear and avoid them.  CNET.com reports on the long-awaited National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rule requiring auto manufacturers to add waterproof, temperature resistant sound generators to hybrid and electric vehicles sold after September 1, 2019.  Referred to as vehicle warning sounds, the sound will be automatically activated when a car travels at speeds below 18.6 miles per hour.

Electric and hybrid cars are noticeably quieter than cars powered by an internal combustion engine.  This fact drew the attention of advocates for the blind and visually impaired a decade ago, ultimately leading to the passage of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act (PSEA) of 2010.  The PSEA is intended to reduce the risk of harm to blind and visually impaired pedestrians, as well as cyclists, or anyone unable to hear the very quiet approach of these cars, by requiring electric and hybrid cars to emit a minimum added sound.  The issue regarding this requirement is complex and contentious, and it has generated a lot of research and extended discourse both for and against added sound.  Many electric and hybrid cars have used added sound for years; samples of some sounds can be found online.

A significant concern is that some automakers see the need to comply with the rule as an opportunity to invent branded sounds, while critics of branded sounds would prefer sounds as similar as possible to a vehicle engine, noting that discordant or unusual sounds could actually create confusion.  In addition, environmental advocates and soundscape preservationists have expressed concern about adding more noise to an overburdened soundscape.

One problem with reaching a sensible solution is that the instructional videos produced by industry tend to show cars and pedestrians interacting in open spaces, but real world experiences are more likely to occur in busy parking lots or residential streets.  Measures such as traffic calming and slow zones could result in a growing number of areas where driving below 20 miles per hour would be the norm in order to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.  One thing is clear, vehicle engineers must incorporate these details into the planning of current and future warning sounds.

Asked about branded sound design, Jeanine Botta, who runs the Green Car Integrity Project blog, said that she hopes sound designers will follow the rule’s requirement that sound be recognizable as a motor vehicle in operation, and let go of branding concepts.  “Our attention is already stretched to its maximum potential.  No pedestrian – or cyclist or motorist – should have to quickly process and interpret any sound, especially one intended for safety.  If a sound is the least bit discordant, it runs the risk of being misinterpreted and ignored.”

Automotive product developers considering new and improved added quiet car sound should include industry outsiders in the research and development process.  Consultation with environmental psychologists, environmental health researchers, acoustic ecologists, and soundscape preservationists would be a step in the right direction.

 

Anti-social miscreant nabbed by cops

Photo credit: El Segundo Police Department

Photo credit: El Segundo Police Department

Joseph Serna, L.A. Times, reports that “praise poured onto El Segundo Police Department’s Facebook page from ecstatic residents” this past Sunday, November 13th.  Why?  Because “'[t]hey found the air horn guy!!’ wrote Jenn Birch.”  Yes, John W. Nuggent, pictured above, outfitted his “little blue four-door, 2006 Chevrolet Aveo” with “an air tank with hoses connected to a device near the car’s gas pedal.”  When the officer tried the car’s horn, he heard what sounded like the horn of “a big truck or train.”  Nuggent then admitted that he was the guy who had been driving down the middle of the street for six weeks, waking up the residents with his horn, all to annoy one specific resident with whom he had had a dispute.

Nuggent was arrested on suspicion of disturbing the peace.  We suspect the prosecutor should get an easy conviction.

 

 

OSHA announces hearing-protection technology contest winners

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Four inventors have been recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration for their innovations in developing technology intended to combat work-related hearing loss.  The winning designs include a custom-fitted earpiece that offered workers protection, wearable sensor technology that detects noise levels, and an interchangeable decorative piece that attaches to silicone earplugs.

Link via @jeaninebotta.

Potential relief for those living near wind farms:

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Owl-inspired wing design reduces wind turbine noise by 10 decibels.  Some people living near wind farms have complained about health problems caused by the turbine noise.  While the debate continues as to whether the noise adversely affects human health, relief may be on its way.  Science Daily reports that a team of researchers studying the acoustics of owl flight have been working on pinpointing the mechanisms used by many species of owl that allows them “to hunt in effective silence by suppressing their noise at sound frequencies above 1.6 kilohertz (kHz) — over the range that can be heard by humans.”  The researchers wanted to use those mechanisms “to improve human-made aerodynamic design — of wind turbines, aircraft, naval ships and, even, automobiles”  And apparently they have succeeded in using owl feathers “as a model to inspire the design of a 3-D printed, wing attachment that reduces wind turbine noise by a remarkable 10 decibels — without impacting aerodynamics.”

 

 

Let’s find out, shall we?

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Can electric sports cars be sporty without any engine noise?  The author of this piece, Jordan Golson, The Verge, suggests the answer is no, because he thinks noise = fun:

Not only does a noisy engine give a visceral thrill, knowing that there are thousands of tiny explosions happening to keep you going, but it just sounds awesome. It would be a shame to lose it, and carmakers know it. Bloomberg says Porsche has been looking at artificially inserting noise into the cabin, perhaps via the stereo like some other manufacturers have done, or amplifying the high-pitched hum of the electric motor.

I don’t know what the answer is, but a world without the roar of a Dodge Challenger Hellcat is a world that’s just a little less fun.

And so the rare opportunity to reduce the overall noise level in our soundscape will likely be ignored, as carmakers will rush to spend big bucks adding unnecessary noise to electric cars because engine noise “just sounds awesome.”  Sigh.

 

Queen’s guitarist, Brian May, complains to council

over noisy leaf-blowers.  Yes, it not just a U.S. problem, leaf blowers are fraying nerves in London, too.  The Telegraph writes that May, “[f]amed for his loud rock anthems, [] has used his blog to criticise Kensington And Chelsea Borough Council for dismissing his road sweeper and replacing him with six people armed with noisy leaf-blowers.”  We understand May’s frustration at dealing with ear-splitting noise, especially when he found, in the end, that “the state of the road was worse after the men had attempted to clear it.”  May laments “the awful noise of the blowers, dust and leaves being blown into my garden, and petrol fumes,” adding that |they are creating a horrible intrusion into our lives.”

The Telegraph notes that May isn’t the only celebrity who hates leaf blowers, writing:

In May, actor Tom Conti appeared on a television show to moan about the racket from the machines, insisting they were ruining his peace and quiet.

He said: “It’s very, very loud and unnecessary. If these people can’t stand the sight of a leaf then it’s not a leaf-blower they need, it’s a psychiatrist.”

Point, Conti.