Silencity

The Truth About Noise

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Here’s some helpful advice for those who work in open-plan offices:

The best ways to cope with a noisy office.  Rachel Becker, writing for The Verge, is wisely concerned about finding a good option to block distracting noise at work that won’t put her hearing at risk.  Becker notes that “[h]earing loss typically occurs as people age” and that it is irreversible, but what she is concerned about is the World Health Organization’s statement that “more than 1.1 billion young adults are also at risk” of hearing loss because approximately “half of [all] people ages 12 to 35 in middle-to-high income countries are exposing themselves to unsafe levels of noise on their devices.”  That is, younger people are engaging in activities that almost guarantee they will suffer hearing loss as they age, something Becker wants to avoid.

Sadly, her review of options doesn’t reveal a perfect answer.  But her article is important because she is young and aware that she may be able to avoid hearing loss entirely by taking steps to protect her hearing today.  She’s right, after all, about hearing loss being irreversible, and the truth is that no one knows when, or if, a cure will be found.  Since noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable, Becker is choosing the wiser route: avoid exposing your ears to damaging sound today to preserve your hearing tomorrow.

 

Animals are responding to human noise:

Bats are adapting their hunting strategies to the noise of our cities.  The good news is that a study published in Science shows that bats appear to be successfully adapting to human noise.  But as a researcher not involved in that study notes, “[s]ome animals probably can’t [adapt].”  So what happens to them?  And what about humans?  As the world gets noisier, how will we cope?  Or not?  It’s certainly something that should be addressed sooner rather than later, because, as the article reports:

“This is way beyond bats now. This is about thinking about any animals,” says Paul Faure, the director of the Bat Lab at McMaster University, who was not involved in the study. “We are domesticating our planet, we’re creating noise pollution, we’re creating light pollution. We’re fundamentally altering the world that we live in.”

Noise and its effect on all animals, including humans, has been ignored for too long.  It’s more than just a nuisance.  Among other things, noise can damage hearing with one exposure.  It’s time that the federal, state, and local governments step up and regulate noise much as they regulate air or water pollution, treating noise as the public health hazard that it is.  It also is time for adults to assume some responsibility for their hearing and their children’s hearing by protecting themselves and others through the use of ear plugs and ear muff protectors, or by the simply lowering the volume when they can, and leaving a loud space when they cannot.  It’s time that we take noise-induced hearing loss and other noise-induced hearing injuries seriously.  Because until we do, people will continue to suffer permanent hearing injuries for which there is no cure, a particularly galling situation when one considers that noise-induced hearing injuries are 100% preventable.

Meanwhile, in the UK….

The Guardian’s Rachel Cooke asks, “Who wants a din with their dinner?”  The answer, of course, is no one.  But we don’t always get what we want.  That could change, though.  Cooke reports that UK charity Action on Hearing Loss is stepping up to the plate to take on restaurant noise head on.  Namely, the organization is in the process of “funding the development of a mobile phone app that will enable customers to record decibel levels when they go out to eat.”  Cooke says that “[t]he idea is that, duly named and shamed, the noisiest offenders will perhaps be minded to do something about the pain they seem so determined to inflict on diners and, far worse, their own long-suffering staff.”

Cooke likes the idea, but she doesn’t think it will work.  She notes that “a certain tabloid newspaper” sent reporters armed with decibel recorders to various well-known restaurants and recorded punishingly high decibel readings–two restaurants clocking in at over 105 decibels–but the restaurants are still loud after the tabloid’s exposé.

So is there anything that can be done?  Yes there is.  Cooke writes:

A tolerance for extreme noise is, alas, just another aspect of what we might call the booming 21st-century restaurant industry’s near sadistic approach to customers: the same treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen attitude that brought us restaurants which refuse to take bookings, and maitre d’s who would rather stare at an iPad than meet your eye. * * * All this is beyond infuriating, of course – except we’ve only ourselves to blame. The customer, in these scenarios, might well seem to be a craven, masochistic figure, contemptible in his desperate willingness to be humiliated and kept in line all for the sake of a few small plates and a bottle of slightly filthy organic wine.  But that doesn’t mean he isn’t still king.  If only more of us walked, fingers in ears, things would change faster than you can shout “uproar”.

She’s right.  Until more of us refuse to eat in loud restaurants by walking out after telling management why we are leaving, things won’t change.  But until they do New Yorkers can check out our sister site, Quiet City Maps for reviews on restaurants, bars, and coffee shops in the city based on noise level.  With Quiet City Maps you won’t have to deal with punishing noise over a plate of pasta, cafe au lait, or cocktail again!

Link via @QuietEdinburgh.

Eater’s Updated Guide to What’s Wrong With Restaurants Today

So what is the number one complaint?  You guessed it–noise.  What will the response be from restauranteurs?  If the past is any indication, nothing.  Until people refuse to eat at restaurants that serve a side of tinnitus with their meal, nothing will happen.  We at Silencity believe in voting with your wallet.  If enough people ask that music be lowered or complain to the manager about noise, eventually something will be done.  So be sure to tell the owner or manager why you won’t be returning to their restaurant or why you’ll pass on a table.  And while we wait for restauranteurs to react, go to our sister site, Quiet City Maps, and let them help you find a relatively quiet restaurant, bar, or coffee shop in noisy New York City.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration announces new guidelines on ocean noise,

stating that the guidelines “show NOAA’s commitment to address effects of ocean noise on marine mammals.”

NOAA states that the roadmap “will serve as a guide across NOAA, reviewing the status of the science on ocean noise and informing next steps,” adding that it is “already taking on some of these recommendations, such as the recent launch of an underwater network of acoustic monitoring sensors.”   The focus is on the “approaches that [NOAA] can take with other federal and non-federal partners to reduce how noise affects the species and places we manage,” said W. Russell Callender, assistant NOAA administrator for its National Ocean Service.  Callender continued, “[i]t also showcases the importance that places like national marine sanctuaries have as sentinel sites in building our understanding of ocean noise impacts.”

Let’s hope that the movement from guidance to action is a short one.

Time to paint your face and get ready to have your eardrums blasted:

Crowd noise to be cranked up during Ohio State football practices to prepare for road game. The Columbus Dispatch reports:

Ohio State will be going on the road for the first time this season — against No. 14 Oklahoma — with a lineup loaded with players who have never experienced a hostile crowd.

“It’s a concern,” coach Urban Meyer said Tuesday on the Big Ten coaches teleconference. “Wednesday and Thursday, we’ll pump crowd noise in like we normally do. This will probably be one of the loudest stadiums in the country.”

Coach Meyer isn’t bragging about having one of the loudest stadiums in the country, he’s just making a statement of fact.  But the fact that he doesn’t express any concern about the noise level at games–except for whether his players will be able to hear calls–is disturbing.  As is his response to stadium noise: blast crowd noise at his players during practice so they can become acclimated to it.   At what point are coaches, universities, and team owners going to acknowledge that stadium noise is dangerous to hearing?  After an epidemic of hearing loss, tinnitus, or hyperacusis?

Note to attendees: the face paint can be removed, but that ringing in your ears that “went away” after a few hours (or days), that’s a different story.  So if you are going to the game, read up about hidden hearing loss and protect yourself.  Bring ear plugs and leave with your hearing intact.

You’re welcome!

Or he could have just turned down the music and saved a couple of million bucks:

Drake Buys Neighbor’s Home After They Complained About Noise.  I suppose it’s an option when you have more money than god.  A shame all that money can’t buy him new stereocilia after he destroys his hearing.

The destructive power of noise:

ING Bank’s main data center was shut down by a loud noise.  So what exactly happened, you ask?  This:

[ING Bank] was testing an electronics-safe fire suppression system in the main data center, but a pressure discrepancy caused the system to emit a loud noise while expelling inert gas.  According to the bank, the sound was measured a over 130dB — apparently loud enough to knock the HDD’s physical components out of alignment.

130 dB (probably A-weighted or dBA) is not to be sniffed at.  It’s recommended that humans limit exposure at 130 dBA to “under one second.”  If noise measuring 130 dBA is loud enough to knock out a few dozen hard drives, what will it do to you?  It’s time you learned about noise-induced “hidden hearing loss.”

South Pasadena Becomes Nation’s First AGZA Green Zone® City

South Pasedena’s parks and lands are now free of deafening noise and toxic pollution from gas-powered landscape maintenance equipment.

Quiet Communities has announced that South Pasadena has taken the first brave step forward and switched the maintenance of “all 41 acres (!) of municipal lands to advanced electric landscape maintenance equipment and manual tools.”

By transitioning to electric and manual tools, reports Quiet Communities, the city is:

[E]liminating toxic and carcinogenic emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, and hazardous waste associated with the use of gas-powered engines including hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides (ground level ozone precursors) fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide (CO), and carbon dioxide.  All are known to contribute to serious health problems and environmental degradation.  Schools, businesses, and parks can be enjoyed as peaceful public spaces.  The new equipment will improve working conditions for grounds crews who will no longer have to expose themselves to deafening noise, harmful emissions, or equipment vibrations.  Residents will enjoy a cleaner, healthier environment and improved quality of life.

Quiet Communities is bringing AGZA Green Zones to the East Coast.  To learn more about creating an AGZA Green Zone, click the link above or contact Quiet Communities at: info@quietcommunities.org.