Silencity

The Truth About Noise

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We know the feeling:

In “Why I hate my fellow commuters in the quiet carriage.” Brian Yatman, The Sidney Morning Herald, writes about commuting by train and how the quiet car is abused by the rude and ignorant.  We’ve been there, although unlike Mr. Yatman we may have asked someone to keep it down once (or three times).  In any event, his suggestion for maintaining quiet car decorum is spot on:

What we need is some kind of official presence authorised to apply the shushing finger of the law. These marshals would glide about in comfy shoes, separating chatty couples, handing out Reader’s Digests, keeping the peace. They would issue warnings in the form of aphorisms. “Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods,” they would intone, invoking the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Repeat offenders would be escorted off the train.

Or offenders could be thrown off, literally, to save time (and quickly escape the sound of their screams).  Do not violate the sanctity of the quiet car.

Link via @QuietMark.

As if air and water pollution weren’t enough:

Noise pollution from fracking may harm human health.  Brett Israel, UC Berkeley News, writes that “[f]racking creates noise at levels high enough to harm the health of people living nearby, according to the first peer-reviewed study to analyze the potential public health impacts of ambient noise related to fracking.”  What kind of health impacts?  The researchers found that “noise from fracking operations may contribute to adverse health outcomes in three categories, including anxiety, sleep disturbance and cardiovascular disease or other conditions that are negatively impacted by stress.”  One more reason to end fracking.  Click the link for a detailed description of the “complex symphony of noise types” associated with fracking activity.

We can’t tell if this is an elaborate joke (or not):

Photo credit: TaxRebate.org.uk

Hushme’s voice-masking headset could save your sanity! Or not.

The 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas just wrapped up and, as usual, there were a handful of “interesting” gadgets that we may or may not ever see online, much less at a retail store.  Hushme must be on that short list.  Essentially, Hushme is a mask you place over your mouth (while wearing Bluetooth earbuds) that allows you to take a phone call without other people hearing you.  And to add an element of fun to this “interesting” product, the manufacturers allow you to play a series of sounds through external speakers to further obscure things (while killing the idea that Hushme will allow you to make a call without distracting those around you, but whatever).  How is playing sound through external speakers fun?  When it’s “sounds of some R2-D2-style beeping” or “[h]eavy, Darth Vader-ish breathing.”  Fun!

Click this link to view the Hushme promotional video and see if you agree with the description of the Hushme as “stylish.”  And be sure to keep your eye out for Hushme’s crowdfunding effort scheduled for sometime this year.  $200.  That’s what they expect to ask for each and every Hushme.

A little self-help can’t hurt

In light of the recent study linking traffic noise to an increased risk of acquiring dementia, this article is a must read: How To Reduce Noise Pollution At Home.

Of course, one would hope that governments would think about how best to limit noise after reading that frightening study.  The medical costs alone should be enough to motivate even the most dispassionate bean counter.  But until they do, we really must take matters into our own hands and try to make our homes as peaceful and noise free as possible.

Link via @QuietMark.

 

God save us from the sound branders

Imagine all of this “sound branded.”

Because there isn’t enough noise in the world. Goldstein, a “music and sound consultancy with an outstanding track record in film, advertising, experiential marketing and sound branding,” writes about sound branding.  What is sound branding, you ask?  Goldstein explains:

There is a common misconception that the term Sound Branding refers only to the creation of ‘sonic logos’ or ‘sound signatures’. While these elements undoubtedly played a significant part in developing the field, it has expanded into something much richer and more valuable than a synonym for jingle-making. In its totality, it’s about the strategic curation of anything that can be usefully heard by a target audience – this could be a bespoke composition for an interactive product, the playlisting for a chain of hotels, or even an installation of generative sound art for a department store.

We would suggest a simpler–and more accurate–definition: the purposeful intrusion into an individual’s’ personal soundscape by someone trying to sell them something.  Adding that the idea of companies competing by employing sound branding could quickly spiral into hell on earth in public spaces.

Age doesn’t matter,

you could have hidden hearing loss (and not know it). WMAR Baltimore reports on hidden hearing loss, a relatively recently discovered hearing breakthrough that explains how people who pass hearing tests have problems hearing in noisy environments.  WMAR interviewed audiologists about this breakthrough, who said that “why patients can’t decipher speech in noisy situations has been unexplained, but a new breakthrough is changing that.”  The researchers who made the hidden hearing loss breakthrough studied young adults who were regularly overexposed to loud sounds, and found that “hidden hearing loss is associated with a deep disorder in the auditory system.”

It’s never too late to protect the hearing you have.  Exposure to loud sounds damages hearing.  Period.

 

Here’s some frightening noise news:

Dementia rates “higher near busy roads.”, “[t]he researchers adjusted the data to account for other risk factors like poverty, obesity, education levels and smoking so these are unlikely to explain the link.”

Said Dr. Hong Chen, from Public Health Ontario and one of the paper’s authors, “increasing population growth and urbanisation have placed many people close to heavy traffic, and with widespread exposure to traffic and growing rates of dementia, even a modest effect from near-road exposure could pose a large public health burden.”

Still, the study only suggests that there is a link. As Dr. Chen concludes, “[m]ore research to understand this link is needed, particularly into the effects of different aspects of traffic, such as air pollutants and noise.”

 

 

Always read the fine print when a study comes out trivializing noise complaints

Daniel Fink, MD, and Jamie L. Banks, PhD, MSc, have written an intriguing article about NextGen, The Mercatus Center (funded by the arch conservative Koch brothers), and aircraft noise. In “Airplane Noise is a Health Hazard,” Fink and Banks write that the Mercatus Center study “labels those who complain about airport noise as NIMBYs…conveniently ignor[ing] a large body of medical research showing that airplane noise increases the risk of morbidity and mortality, [and] trivializ[ing] the seriousness of a problem affecting the health and well-being of millions of Americans.”  It’s a very thoughtful and well-cited piece that is worth a careful read.

Shortly after Fink and Banks’ article was published, an article appeared in the Chicago Sun Times about the soaring costs in test program to insulate historic homes near O’Hare ($101,000 per home, not an insignificant amount). Interestingly, the Mercatus Center study somehow ignored the damage to property value borne by homeowners living under NextGen flight paths while it was categorizing people suffering from continuous aircraft noise as a “handful” of NIMBYists .