Silencity

The Truth About Noise

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Color us surprised!

Turns out that people like to have private phone conversations in private spaces. Go figure! The New York Times looks at this phenomenon in a piece titled: Dial P for Privacy: The Phone Booth Is Back.

Naturally the phone booths highlighted in the article aren’t on the street. Rather, they are expensive ($3995 and higher) add-ons companies have had to squeeze into their open plan office spaces for those times that co-workers want less “collaboration” and more privacy. Something that used to be accommodated with these things called offices.

If phone booths are back, might offices be around the corner? [Not holding our breath.]

Thanks to Jeanine Botta for the link.

 

Hearing loss is associated with accidental injury

Photo credit: slgckgc licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This paper in the March 22, 2018, issue of JAMA Otolaryngology reports that difficulty hearing is associated with an increased risk of accidental injury. The study is preliminary because it relies on subject self-report of hearing difficulty rather than measured hearing loss, but it makes sense. Sound provides much information–for communication, for entertainment, and for warning of hazards–and if you have difficulty hearing, you’ll become aware of problems (e.g., an approaching vehicle, a power tool that’s getting stuck, or even just a shouted warning) later than if you had good hearing.

Think about all the accidental injury that could be avoided if people made an effort to protect their hearing.  After all, most hearing loss in adults is noise-induced hearing loss which is 100% preventable.

Protect your hearing by avoiding loud noise or using hearing protection, and avoid accidental injury, too.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and 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.

 

On “hearing” silent images, redux

When we first wrote about the phenomenon of GIFs that people could “hear” last December, we said we couldn’t “hear” the GIF.  But then this article came out with a larger version of the GIF, and, well, yes, it’s loud and clear.

Click the second link and “hear” (or not) for yourself.  And do read the entire piece.  Turns out the reason why one in five of us can hear silent images is that it is a common form of synaesthesia, “the weird sensory cross-over that leads some people to visualise noises or feel smells.”

Noisy vacuum cleaners are still a problem in the EU

Photo credit: Phonical licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Despite European Union regulations about vacuum cleaner noise, this report documents that noisy vacuum cleaners are still a problem there.

As the Volkswagen diesel pollution fiasco shows, manufacturers will flout laws meant to protect the public until regulators act.

At least Europe has laws protecting the public from appliance noise. The U.S. has these laws on the books, but they have not been enforced since the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control was defunded during the Reagan years.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and 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.

 

CDC: Occupational noise exposure can raise blood pressure, cholesterol levels

Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Quiet Coalition usually doesn’t comment on occupational noise because workers have legal protection from noise exposure under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, with noise exposure standards, required hearing protection, and compensation for hearing loss, while the public has none.

We have commented–as have many others–that the occupational noise exposure standards are set too high, but we otherwise focus on the public.

But it’s important to note that most of what we know about the dangers of noise comes from occupational studies.

This report from the Centers for Disease Control documents increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as hearing loss, in workers exposed to noise.

Many research studies, the overwhelming majority from Europe, document these non-auditory health impacts of noise in the public, too, but it’s good to see these issues finally being noticed in the U.S.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and 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.

 

St. Pete mulls arming cops with sound meters

Photo credit: CityofStPete licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

As this report shows, urban noise–in this case from restaurants, bars, and clubs–is a problem in St. Petersburg, Florida. So much so that the city council is considering supplying police officers with sound level meters, at an estimated cost of $175,000, and establishing noise limits for various locations at various times of the day.

There are two general patterns of noise laws in the U.S.: those that require measurements of sound levels, and those that allow the enforcement authorities to make a subjective assessment of whether the noise is too loud. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Objective measurements allow precision and avoid accusations of bias, but the accuracy of the measurement can be questioned. Also, police officers in many jurisdictions have been reported to be reluctant to use the equipment, claiming that they don’t have the proper training.

On the other hand, subjective measurements allow authorities to act if the officer thinks the sound is too loud without arguments about the accuracy of the measurements, but open municipal authorities to accusations of bias in enforcement. In general, police authorities nationwide appear to be reluctant, at best, to enforce existing noise ordinances.

We would suggest that St. Petersburg save money by using one of the highly accurate free sound measurement apps available, e.g., SoundPrint or iHEARu, both of which allow location stamping, or relatively inexpensive sound measurement apps such as Faber Acoustical’s Sound Meter 4 and similar apps. [Note: Faber requires an iPhone and not an Android to be accurate, due to manufacturer variations in hardware and software specifications for Android phones.] Better yet, city council could enact enabling legislation to deputize any citizen with an approved app to report noise violations for enforcement purposes, providing the city with efficient, effective, and free noise monitoring.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and 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.

 

Or you could just provide your employees a damn office

 

Here’s a cheaper alternative.  You’re welcome.    Photo credit: Mechatronics Guy licensed under CC BY 2.0

Do you work in a noisy open plan office? Need to make a private phone call? No worries, you can ring in privacy with the phone booth (reads the sponsored content).

And why not? With open plan offices still around, some accommodation has to be made when an employee needs to speak to her doctor or his spouse or to do their job.  But rather than re-evaluate the open floor plan and it’s inappropriateness for many jobs, do spend money on an ugly little space with, no doubt, a big price tag.

One hopes that after weighing the cost of providing overly designed quiet spaces coupled with lost productivity due to noise and distraction the C-suite geniuses will eventually discover the benefits of providing the worker bees a distraction-free office to do their damn job.