Silencity

The Truth About Noise

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What are the best workout headphones?

Photo credit: CherryPoint licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

What are the best workout headphones? In my considered opinion, none. This review of workout headphones mentions noise-induced hearing loss, but misuses the 85 decibel (dBA, A-weighted decibels) occupational noise exposure as the safe listening limit.

There is a common belief that music improves athletic performance, and the louder the music the better the effort. But I have been unable to find any scientific articles supporting this belief, unless it is music with a particular beat or rhythm which, for example, might help a runner keep a steady pace.

On the other hand, the dangers of noise for hearing loss are supported by decades of scientific work and thousands of articles in peer-reviewed journals.

So skip the headphones–you can be very fit without losing your 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.

Headphones for kids: What you should know

Photo credit: ExpectGrain licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This post at SoundGuys discusses choosing headphones for kids. The author discusses a variety of considerations, including many that lead me to my opinion about headphones for kids:

Headphone use should be limited to those old enough to understand the dangers of hearing loss. Giving a younger child a pair of headphones–volume limited or not–is like giving a toddler a beer or a 9-year-old a pack of cigarettes. No one does that.

It takes years to decades of noise exposure to produce hearing loss as measured by standard audiometric techniques, but the reports of hearing loss at very early ages associated with headphone use have already begun to appear. A Dutch study in June 2018 reported increased hearing loss another auditory problems in children as young as 9 to 11, compared to those who didn’t use headphones to listen to personal music devices.

I’m not sure exactly when the idea evolved that everyone, including toddlers as young as 3, needs to entertained by audio or visual material for almost every waking hour, but I can guarantee that generations of children were raised to adulthood quite successfully without these devices. Perhaps headphone use should be regulated like driving, smoking, or drinking, each of which has an age limit at which the behavior is allowed. In the U.S., the age requirement for driving varies from 15 or so to 18 depending on the state, 18 for smoking, and 21 years old for drinking.  Laws are different in Europe and Asia, but to my knowledge there are no laws or regulations restricting headphone use or personal music device use anywhere in the world.

In the old days–whenever that was, but certainly up to a decade or two ago–children either entertained themselves by playing with blocks or toys or dolls, or were entertained by friends, parents, and others. As children got older, they entertained themselves with coloring books, and then by reading. At a meal or waiting in a line or when traveling, parents and children interacted, whether it was the parent making up a story for the toddler, or the slightly older child telling the parent or grandparent a story, or looking at and talking about what was outside the window of the car, bus, train, or airplane. Or people read books. Now I see families sitting in a restaurant with each person wearing earbuds, looking at a smart phone or listening to some content on it, instead of interacting with each other.

This can’t be good for personal and social development. It can’t be good for developing ties among family members and others. And I can guarantee that it is not good for hearing–headphone use in children will cause hearing loss in adults.

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.

Want to get away from the noise?

Photo credit: Peter Rintels licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

You are not the only one. Jess Bidgood, The New York Times introduces us to Dennis Follensbee, a programmer from New Hampshire, who is on “an exhaustive search for the noiseless hollows and dells of New Hampshire’s White Mountains.” The good news is that Follensbee has mapped 23 quiet places to date. The bad news is that he will only share this information with family and “close friends,” because “[i]f quiet places are widely known, he reasons, ‘they cease to be quiet.’”

But despite keeping his information secret, formerly quiet places have been found and are being “enjoyed” by those who love noise. Writes Bidgood,”people whose passions make noise — like snowmobilers and motorcyclists — say they, too, have the right to enjoy the wilderness.” That is, they believe they have the right to make as much noise as they want because they like it, and they are seemingly unburdened by the needs of others who go to the wilderness to enjoy natural sounds. Bidgood speaks to a 75-year old motorcyclist who finds the noise he creates “thrilling,” saying that it is “part of the attraction.”

Which suggests, sadly, that Mr. Follensbee list will likely see some subtraction. One can only hope that in some future enlightened time (ed: it could happen) those who are entrusted with protecting our natural spaces understand that it includes the natural soundscape.

How to protect your child’s hearing

Photo credit: Fimb licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This brief article from U.S. News offers a few basic tips to protect a child’s hearing.

The various health authorities–from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians–offer little guidance for parents but not much. The CDC offers some resources, but I can’t find anything specifically about noise and hearing loss in children on the American Academy of Pediatrics or American Academy of Family Physicians online. This stands in dramatic contrast to the CDC’s sound advice offered about sun exposure, which is mirrored by offerings from the AAP and AAFP.

My advice to parents on protecting their child’s hearing is simple: if it sounds too loud, it IS too loud. Avoid the noise (e.g., don’t take a child to a rock concert or music festival), wear hearing protection (a less desirable choice in my opinion because it teaches the child that risky behaviors are acceptable), or leave if the noise is louder and expected. Parents (and grandparents) will be protecting their own precious hearing, too.

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 prevent modern-day noise from damaging your hearing

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

There’s nothing new in this report from Care2, which appears to be a lifestyle website. But it offers some sound basic advice on how to protect your hearing.

I particularly like the idea of a noise vacation to give your ears a break. I would suggest a hike. You will find how quiet nature really is supposed to be.

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.

Travel with your ears

Photo credit: Adrian Glover licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5

The New York Times Magazine has produced a slick and interesting piece where they travel around the world to various locations and focus on what you would hear if you were there. In the piece we hear the sounds of lava flowing from Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, then travel to northern Chile to hear the cracking of the Atacama Desert, stop briefly to hear the sound of rats conversing in New York City, and so on.

Sit back, relax, and click the link above.

New method claims to cancel noise without ear-blocking headphones

Photo credit: Marekich licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report from the University of Illinois Coordinated Science Laboratory describes a method to cancel noise without ear-blocking headphones. It uses behind-the-ear technology to send sound waves to cancel the incoming sound.

I hope the technology can be commercialized–it sounds like it has promise–but to me it would be much simpler, easier, and probably cheaper to just turn down the volume of amplified sound, install sound-absorbing or sound blocking materials at the time of construction, and mandate quieter cars, trains, and airplanes.

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 Toronto Star says “Turn down the volume!”

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This editorial in The Toronto Star discusses the adverse health impacts of noise and Toronto’s efforts to work towards quiet.

The Quiet Coalition’s Bradley Vite is quoted, saying “[i]t took decades to educate people on the dangers of second-hand smoke…[w]e may need decades to show the impact of second-hand noise.”

Mr. Vite may be correct. It took too long for those responsible for protecting public health to take action to clear the air in restaurants, stores, workplaces, and buses, planes, and trains. People can still smoke, but not where others are forced to smell or breathe their exhaled smoke involuntarily.

I am confident that if enough people complain to enough elected officials about noise, laws and regulations will be written and enforced to make the world a quieter place.

The scientific evidence is overwhelming. There can be no rational doubt that noise causes hearing loss and has major non-auditory health effects, including sleep disruption, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and death.

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.