Silencity

The Truth About Noise

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Not surprising, but useful information to point to if you are told you’re being an alarmist:

nightclub-photo

Noise levels in nightclubs may induce hearing loss.  News Medical reports that “researchers in Southern California have found that the average continuous level of noise in some nightclubs is at least 91.2 dBA (A-weighted decibels).”  Again, this is not a surprise, but what is surprising is a statement researchers made about noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).  Namely, the researchers found that “[c]lub goers may suffer noise-induced hearing loss from just one night out on the town.”  That’s right, if a club is loud enough, you could suffer a lifetime of hearing loss from one exposure.  Don’t be a statistic, if you are going to hit the clubs be forewarned and forearmed–bring ear plugs so you can have fun and preserve your hearing.

 

Yet another gadget to help you deal with workplace noise:

Introducing Orosound Tilde earphones.  So, you may be asking yourself, “what are Orosound Tilde earphones and why do I care?”  Well, the Tilde earphones are “designed to control distracting ambient noise levels, help you focus on the sounds you want, and connect via Bluetooth to phones and wireless audio devices.”  And that means what?  Essentially, Tilde earphones are portable noise cancellation devices that allow wearers to adjust the level of ambient noise immediately around themselves, with attached earbuds through which the wearer can listen to music or take phone calls.

The device is “designed specifically to help workers ‘listen to the sounds that matter and tune out the rest.’”  As the promotional literature explains, “84 percent of people complain about workplace noise levels and 80 percent say ‘they struggle to concentrate because of background noise.’”  That is, Tilde’s reason for being is to address growing worker displeasure over distracting noise that intereferes with them doing their work–a situation that has been exacerbated, no doubt, by the seemingly universal adoption of open plan work spaces.  If the earphones work as described, Tilde should be a hit.  Certainly the developers are well on their way to start making and selling the first run, as they are on the mark to satisfy their Kickstarter fundraising goal.

If only one could have a Kickstarter campaign for a workplace design with walls and ceilings and doors and no need for personal noise cancellation earphones.

Silent retreats, silent ​restaurants, and even silent dating events are​ on the rise.

Ssshhh! How the cult of quiet can change your life.  Of course the headline is overstated and the discussion is superficial, but to the extent that this piece about various silent activities gets notice, I guess it serves a purpose.  One hopes that these silent events aren’t just a new shiny thing, but a longstanding alternative to the always on, always connected, busy world we live and play in.

And a query: Has anyone ever been to a silent retreat, or a silent restaurant, book party, or dating event?  If yes, please tell us if you enjoyed it in the comments.

2016 Greater Boston Noise Report Issued.

Erica Walker, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has been “measuring sound levels and conducting the Greater Boston (now National) Neighborhood Noise Survey within the Greater Boston Area,” for the past year.  On Monday, October 24, 2016, she issued a report updating key findings from her research, releasing the first comprehensive noise assessment of the Greater Boston Community since 1971.  Walker’s noise assessment is interactive, allowing the user to look at the survey results, soundscapes, spatial and interactive maps of sound levels, and a neighborhood report card.  It’s an interesting approach to noise assessment, and it’s exciting to hear that she is currently conducting a National Neighborhood Noise Survey.

If you’d like to participate Erica Walker’s National Neighborhood Noise Survey 2020, click here.

Why do elderly people with otherwise normal hearing have difficulty hearing some conversations?

Background noise to blame for the elderly being unable to keep up with conversations.  The Express reports on a University of Maryland study that found that “adults aged 61-73 with normal hearing scored significantly worse on speech understanding in noisy environments than adults aged 18-30 with normal hearing.”  The study’s authors stated that the “ageing midbrain and cortex is part of ongoing research into the so-called cocktail party problem, or the brain’s ability to focus on and process a particular stream of speech in the middle of a noisy environment.”  Because many older people who are affected by the “cocktail party problem” have normal hearing, the study notes that talking louder doesn’t help.  If an older person can see the person he or she is speaking to, visual cues can help, as well as the obvious–make the environment quieter.

Sadly, many restaurants, bars, and some coffee shops are just too noisy for older people to be able to hear well and participate in conversation.  Organized efforts to push back against unnecessary noise are gaining a toehold in the public sphere, but more needs to be done.  Until things improve, New Yorkers can find some respite by visiting our sister site, Quiet City Maps, for a guide to New York City’s quieter spaces (and a heads-up for places to avoid).

And don’t forget that if a restaurant or coffee shop is too noisy because of loud music, ask them to lower it.  If they don’t, leave and tell them why you won’t be coming back.  Push back starts with your wallet.

Link via @QuietEdinburgh.

Computers in your ears?

Doppler’s Futuristic Earbuds Sound Great. They Also Speak Spanish.  Brian Flaherty, writing for Wired, reviews the newest iteration of the HERE earbuds, HERE One, and pronounces it “one of the wildest gadget experiences I’ve ever had.”  In a good way.  He also is given a glimpse of what is to come, like the ability to have the English translation of a foreign langauge in your ear in real time.  Click the link for more.

Well, it can’t hurt:

New Bill Seeks to Make it Easier to Catch Developers Breaking Noise Rules.  DNAinfo reports that “[a] new City Council bill is putting pressure on developers behind noisy construction sites by making information about their mitigation plans more accessible to neighbors.”  Long and short, the new bill “would require the Department of Environmental Protection to post noise mitigation plans for construction sites on its website, and would require developers to post the plans on construction fences in clear view.”  Ok, that could help, but we couldn’t help noticing that the bill text doesn’t include penalties for violation (although that must surely be provided elsewhere).

Construction in the city is endless.  Every handful of dirt seems to have a construction crew attempting to put highrise on it. Anyone living near one of these sites knows that their quality of life takes a hit.  Recently Community Board 1 in Manhattan held a construction forum to address common complaints.  Click this link to read the responses to these complaints from representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Buildings.

 

 

Yet another reason restaurants should lower the volume:

Noisy restaurants could be skewering your taste buds, experts say. Liz Biro, The Indianapolis Star, examines the modern American restaurants’ love affair with noise and the unintended consequence noisier restaurants have on our taste buds.  Biro cites Oxford University experimental psychology professor Charles Spence, author of Noise and Its Impact on the Perception of Food and Drink, who wrote that, “[a] growing body of laboratory-based research now demonstrates that loud background noise can affect the ability to taste food.”  Loud music also “hinders our ability to perceive how much alcohol is in a cocktail,” writes Biro, adding that it causes us to chew faster and drink more, two factors that no doubt are somewhat responsible for the increased noise levels in restaurants.

Biro states that “[c]omplaints about noisy restaurants started rising about a decade ago” when tablecloths, carpeting, and softer music gave way to blaring music and the hard, reflective surfaces favored by restauranteurs seeking an “urban industrial” vibe. She adds that New York City’s Babbo, owned by Mario Batali, set the pace, as the pasta “is served to a hard rock soundtrack like the one chefs prefer in the kitchen.”  While faster chewing turns tables over more quickly, and increased drinking adds to the bottom line, there is another reason restaurants are loud.  Namely, a loud, boisterous spot is seen “lively” and “high energy,” and restauranteurs believe that loud volume  attracts millennials.

But restauranteurs recognize that some places have gotten too loud and they can’t ignore that noise was the number one complaint in the 2014 Zagat’s Dining Trends Survey.  Biro states that restaurants in Indianapolis are listening and taking some measures to reign in noise, but adds that one restaurateur, referring to his two “concepts,” notes that they are “intentionally more lively and a little louder than a normal place would be, although we generally try to make sure it’s not so loud that it interferes with spirited conversation.”

Long and short, until a successful restauranteur in New York City or some other trendsetting place addresses noise in a serious way, restauranteurs nationwide will continue to follow this disturbing trend.  While we wait for reason and taste to prevail, residents and visitors to New York City can go to our sister site, Quiet City Maps, to find restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and other public spaces where you can enjoy a nosh or a drink and have a conversation without screaming.

Thanks to @QuietEdinburgh for the link.

Is hearing loss inevitable?

Not necessarily.  Debbie Clason, staff writer at Healthy Hearing, introduces her readers to a friend of this site, noted noise activist Dr. Daniel Fink, who is on a mission “to educate the public about safe noise levels in their environment so they can affect positive change in their communities.”  Clason reports:

Dr. Fink doesn’t believe hearing loss is a function of normal physiological aging, citing quieter, primitive societies where hearing acuity is preserved in older adults. He likens attitudes about hearing loss to those about tooth loss in previous generations. Just as natural teeth work better than dentures he says, natural hearing works better than hearing aids.

The article generally discusses noise-induced hearing loss, how it is 100% preventable, and what one can do to avoid it.   It is well worth a click.