Silencity

The Truth About Noise

Latest Posts

Where Is the Quietest Square Inch in the U.S.?

According to an acoustic ecologist, the country’s quietest spot is in a corner of Washington State.

It was clear that the answer would not be any inhabited place in the U.S., and certainly not any city.  In fact, the author notes that:

Many of you may live close enough to expanses of nature to have a sense of quiet – but few places are completely immune.  Air traffic is hard to escape, and by some accounts, noise pollution affects more than 88 percent of the contiguous United States.

The article focuses on the work of Gordon Hempton, “an acoustic ecologist who has spent more than 30 years studying the quietest places in the country – not places free of sound, but free of man-made noises.”   He has determined that the quietest square inch of nature in the U.S. can be found at Hoh Rain Forest at Olympic National Park in Washington State “on top of a moss-covered log at 47° 51.959N, 123° 52.221W.”  Why focus on this one square inch?  Because, as Hempton explains, “man-made noises can be heard from 20 miles away.  So in fact, by protecting an inch, he says, it’s really preserving 1,000 square miles of silence.”

Click the link to learn about One Square Inch, A Sanctuary for Silence at Olympic National Park.

For more on Gordon Hempton and his life’s work: Soundtracker the Movie.

 

 

What can be done when businesses create noise?

According to the Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park’s sound mitigation report requirement for businesses that play live or recorded music may have been well intended but may miss the mark: Noise issues impact downtown Asbury Park nightlife.

The town’s approach will need tweaking, but at least Asbury Park realizes that a balance has to be met:

“We need something to manage the sound levels, but not something as severe as this current ordinance. A municipality has to protect a balance between different kinds of entertainment experiences, whether you want a quiet bar or dining experience, are at the movies or at a gallery, or want to enjoy live music or a louder bar atmosphere,”  said Michele Alonso, director of planning and redevelopment, in a statement. “Unchecked noise in the downtown — whether music or general crowd noise — affects other businesses as well as residents.”

In the end, that balance has to recognize that one man’s music is another man’s noise.

Can the New York subway system be next, please?

New Wheels May Cut BART’s Noise By Half.

The cause of the screeching with the MTA trains could be something different–sounds like squealing brakes to us–but the idea that a transportation authority would make an effort to identify the source of the noise and do something to correct it, that’s priceless.  Let’s hope that other transportation authorities consider the aural impact of their trains, light rail, trolleys, and buses going forward.

Who doesn’t?

Residents Want Less Motorcycle Noise.

Motorcycle noise is a personal nemesis.  It’s particularly discomforting when (obviously insecure) riders rev their engines at stop lights on smaller streets.  City buildings are built one on top of the other, with few gaps on a typical street.  The buildings are hard surfaces off of which the noxious motorcycle noise rebounds, making narrower streets into a hellish echo chamber.  And to what end?  Unless someone can suggest otherwise, it appears this assault on city denizens exists solely because some motorcycle riders enjoy the noise and either refuse to consider the impact on others or get some pleasure out of imposing it them.

Apparently ordinances exist to limit this abusive behavior, but the San Diego residents in the linked article went to their city council to come up with solutions to the problem.  Council wisely has requested that the Sheriff’s Department “help enforce noise ordinances while they try to work out a solution to the issue.”  We will be watching to see how San Diego deals with this  problem.

Noise causes hearing loss

Not convinced?  Then why is hearing loss more prevalent in certain occupations?  Healthy Hearing provides a list of the most dangerous occupations to hearing health: Top five occupations causing hearing loss.

As Healthy Hearing points out, “[n]o matter what the source, however, even these occupations that come with a high risk of noise related hearing loss can be made safer with proper precautions.”   It is unconscionable that industry and government are aware that these occupations are causing life altering hearing loss and neither is doing enough to stop it.

When does sound becomes noise?

Check here for upcoming screenings: In Pursuit of Silence

Hearables are the new star in the wearables world:

These wireless earbuds let you control which outside sounds to block.

If these catch on maybe people will consider that the better option is to control and limit noise for the general public rather than manage it one person at a time.

City noise pollution

Harvard student mapped Boston’s noise pollution by neighborhood.

Bostom.com reports:

Erica Walker, a student at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is trying to figure out how all that noise might be affecting its residents. In doing so, she’s discovered that not all sounds in Boston are created equal. Nor are all neighborhoods.

In order to better determine the Boston soundscape, she “started exploring the city at large with a boom mic and a mission: to better understand the distribution of noise in Boston.”  In the process, Walker also learned that “each neighborhood revealed its own unique noise structure.”

Walker will be issuing report cards detailing the soundscape of each neighborhood in September, giving Boston residents “the opportunity to find out precisely what might be keeping them up at night, or causing that perpetual migraine, or making them restless.”   And that, Walker hopes, is when change may come.   “I don’t think these cities will ever be [completely] quiet,” she said. “But they can be less loud.”

 

A chilling reminder that exposure to loud noise can lead to more than hearing loss

David Sikorski, senior editor at Earmilk, an online music publication, has written a must read piece for anyone who loves to listen to live music: Tinnitus, Suicides & Earplugs: Don’t be an idiot.  Sikorski states that as senior editor he has “issued a full mandatory requirement for any of our writers to wear earplugs when attending/reviewing any concert or festival on our behalf.”  Why?  Here’s his answer:

Over 700 million people around the world suffer from some form of Tinnitus or ringing in the ears. This recent flood of self-induced hearing damage from oversized studio headphones, grandiose speaker systems and silly notions carried over from ill-advised past generations – equating decibel levels to enjoyment – have created a music industry epidemic.

When it happens, it just happens. You’ll leave the vibrating walls of the after hours spot, that divey “rock n’ roll night club” or even after maxing the sub in your car to peep Slime Season 3. Suddenly, the ringing in your ear, that used to be temporary isn’t.

And yes, though rare, for some people plagued with tinnitus the “ringing in their ears becomes [so] unbearable, that death becomes the only relief.”

So how do you balance your love of live music with the need to protect your hearing?  Sikorski suggests earplugs.  We would add that musicians and music venues need to consider what they can do to stop the permanent damage they are inflicting on fans.

Thanks to Hyperacusis Research Limited for the link.  Hyperacusis Research Limited is a non-profit charity dedicated to funding research on what causes hyperacusis with the goal of developing effective treatment.