Silencity

The Truth About Noise

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Another unintended consequence of global climate change

 

Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Independent reports that Arctic whales are “threatened by collisions and noise pollution as ships begin crossing melting sea ice.” Among other things, the article tells us that whales are more vulnerable to this recent intrusion because “noisy ships interfere with their communication and cause fatal collisions.”

It’s almost as if humans are trying to see how quickly we can destroy everything on this planet.

Noise is bad for children

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

One of the nice things about doing a Google search is the serendipity of coming across something else.

I recently saw a mention of a World Health Organization statement that children shouldn’t be exposed to noise above 120 decibels, so I began searching for the source of that statement. While searching, I found this 2009 WHO PowerPoint presentation (pdf) about the adverse health effect of noise on children–not just hearing loss, but hypertension, increases in stress hormone levels, and difficulties learning, among a multitude of other adverse effects. Eventually, I found the 120 decibel recommendation in the WHO 1999 Community Noise Guidelines monograph.

It’s distressing that this information clearly has been known for so long–the pediatric noise hazards for almost a decade, the Community Noise Guidelines for almost two decades—and we still haven’t done anything to protect our children from noise.

With our first grandchild just born, I will renew my efforts to protect children and all people from the dangers of noise. I hope he grows up in a quieter world.

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’s Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

7 reasons to say no to fireworks

Lloyd Alter, the design editor for Treehugger.com, posted his annual rant about the dangers of fireworks.  In short, fireworks are a dangerous and stupid way to celebrate anything, and in exchange for the short-term pleasure of seeing things blow up in the air, here are the long-term consequences of using them:

They spew percholorates, particulates, heavy metals, CO₂ and ozone into the atmosphere, cause over 10,000 injuries a year, are cruel to animals, and can lead to hearing loss.

It’s not fun being a killjoy, but really, are fireworks necessary?

Does noise kill thousands every year?

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This piece by Richard Godwin in The Guardian discusses the health dangers of noise exposure, including increased mortality. The dangers of noise are well-known in Europe, where the Environmental Noise Directive requires European Union member states to develop and implement government policies to reduce noise exposure for their citizens. Writes Godwin:

Noise exposure has also been linked with cognitive impairment and behavioural issues in children, as well as the more obvious sleep disturbance and hearing damage. The European Environment Agency blames 10,000 premature deaths, 43,000 hospital admissions and 900,000 cases of hypertension a year in Europe on noise. The most pervasive source is road-traffic noise: 125 million Europeans experience levels greater than 55 decibels – thought to be harmful to health – day, evening and night.

Somehow, this body of knowledge has yet to reach this side of the Atlantic Ocean, even though the overwhelming majority of experts think that the scientific evidence is strong enough to establish causality, not merely a correlation or association of noise and health problems.

I am confident that when the public does learn about the dangers of noise for health–not just causing hearing loss, but also hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart attack, stroke, and death–Americans will also push their elected officials for laws and regulations to achieve a quieter environment.

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’s Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

 

More study needed on hearing loss among preschool teachers

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

As an educator, psychologist and researcher on the effects of noise on children’s learning, I have been long interested in the sounds to which children and teachers are exposed to in the classroom. While the literature is indeed plentiful on the dangers of loud sounds and noise to the hearing of young children, as well as to the impacts of noise to their cognition and learning abilities, and my own writings have noted that noise in the classroom disrupts teaching, little has been said about the impacts of loud sounds and noise to which teachers of young children are exposed.

Now we have this study from Sweden that has found hearing-related problems in preschool women teachers that is considerably higher than would be expected. I am looking forward to reading the published study of this paper to learn more about the methodology and specific findings but still, based on this report, would suggest that there be additional studies in other countries, including the U.S. If indeed these findings hold up, then the design of schools with a special emphasis on the acoustics must be given greater thought as the article suggests.

And better school design would also benefit the students. Groups of children tend to be noisy but even here the sound levels can be lessened with appropriate interventions and children can also be taught the importance of being quieter in reading sessions and at times when they read or draw on their own at their desks.

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.

Fireworks can cause hearing problems

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, the Quiet Coalition

This press release from Purdue University discusses the fact that noise from fireworks can cause hearing problems.

There are several errors in the press release. Namely, the 85 decibel noise level cited is an occupational noise exposure standard that isn’t safe for the public nor is it meant to be a standard for the general public. But the main thrust of the piece is a good, general warning that loud noise is bad for the ears.

And the advice offered by Anne Sommer, an audiology clinical instructor at Purdue, that double hearing protection–foam ear plugs and ear muffs–should be used when setting off personal fireworks is sound.

I would only add that if double protection is needed for an unnecessary task, the more prudent option is to avoid exposure. After all, one really shouldn’t set off personal fireworks unless one is willing to accept the loss of an eye or a finger. Fireworks, which are banned in Los Angeles, are inherently dangerous and are really best left to the pros.

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’s Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Hearing-related problems are common among preschool teachers

Photo credit: woodleywonderworks licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Anyone who has seen a bunch of schoolchildren, in a park or a museum or a zoo–perhaps anywhere other than a library–knows that they can be noisy. And noise exposure causes hearing problems.

This report from Sweden discusses the high prevalence of hearing-related problems among preschool teachers there, including hearing loss, difficulty understanding speech, and sensitivity to noise.

The findings have to be replicated in other countries–maybe Swedish kids are noisier than others?–but the report shows that noise is a ubiquitous occupational hazard, even for preschool teachers.

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’s Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

The sounds of the unicorn of the sea

Alan Burdick, The New Yorker, writes about how researchers were able to tag six narwhals and capture the sounds they made over the course of the week, creating “an intimate sonic document of the life of the narwhal.” The researchers identified three types of sounds the narwhals make. The “first two, clicking and buzzing, are used to navigate and to hone in on prey,” and the third sound, calling, the researchers believe is used to communicate to one another. 

You can listen to them here.

 

Big decreases in smoking and soda consumption, is noise next?

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just reported that the smoking rate in the U.S. is the lowest ever reported since this information started being collected. Only 13.9% of American adults are smoking. Unfortunately, this still means that there are 30 million smokers in the U.S., but this is great progress since the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health was issued in 1964.

Recent reports also indicate that efforts to educate the public about the dangers of soda consumption, combined in some cities with taxes on sugary beverages like soda, have also led to reductions in soda consumption.

Will noise be next? In 2016, the CDC recognized that noise exposure was a hazard for the public, not just for workers exposed to noise. There still is no federal recommendation, guideline, or standard for noise exposure for the public, unlike National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommendations, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, for noise exposure for workers.

But at least CDC is looking at the issue, after research showed that noise-induced hearing loss is occurring in people without occupational noise exposure, and we hope some specific guidance about noise will be issued soon. And we hope that this advice–as with smoking and soda consumption–will lead to decreased noise exposure, and decreased hearing loss, in the not too distant future.

In the meantime, 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 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’s Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.