Tag Archive: decibel levels

Is It Safe to Turn Down the Volume of Hospital Alarms?

New Study Chimes In: “Yes.” If you have ever spent any time in a hospital, whether as a visitor or especially as a patient, you probably wondered how the patients sleep with the constant din caused by monitors, particularly the alarms. The answer, apparently, is “they can’t.” While some sort of alarm is needed to alert staff when a patient is having a crisis, Anesthesiology News reports that “[t]he overabundance and high volume of hospital alarms can have deleterious effects on patients and providers, impairing clinician performance and possibly compromising patient safety (citation omitted).” The good news? The study’s author found that “clinician performance is maintained with alarms that are softer than background noise.”

Coming soon to a hospital near you: A good night’s rest!

 

Mystery noise no longer mysterious:

The mystery of the ‘alien call’ deep in the Mariana Trench is solved. So, what’s the answer?  , wired.co.uk, writes that scientists at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Centre, which named the sound the “Western Pacific Biotwang,” “likely represents the discovery of a new baleen whale call.”  So mystery (sorta) solved!

If he thinks the UK is loud, he should (not) visit the U.S.:

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

“I wear earplugs everywhere because Britain is too loud.”  Katie Morley, The Telegraph, reports that the UK’s “most famous choirmaster, Gareth Malone, has revealed that he wears earplugs everywhere he goes because Britain has become too noisy.”  Malone wears earplugs all the time because “ears are the tools of my trade and I don’t want to do anything to endanger them.”  Morley writes that despite Malone’s belief that he is “‘geeky’ for protecting his ears from loud sounds, Mr Malone may well be in common with an emerging breed of people who class themselves as intolerant to so-called ‘noise pollution.'”

She almost had us until her use of the unnecessary “so-called.”  Interestingly, while relying on that weasel word to modify the term “noise pollution,” the rest of the piece highlights the many ways in which noise has overwhelmed the UK and damaged the quality of life of a majority of Brits.  Sounds a bit melodramatic, but Morley writes that “two thirds of UK homeowners say their lives are being blighted by noisy activities of their next door neighbours.”

Click the link for the full story.

What’s nature’s remedy for blocking noise?

Trees. Dean Fosdick, Associated Press, writes that “landscape designers in cities are creating quieter living spaces by using trees to mute loud noises like sirens and air brakes.”  The practice is called “‘soundscaping,’ and it aims to restore peaceful, natural sounds like wind whispering through leaves, birds chirping or rain dripping from branches.”  Click the link to learn more.

Thinking about downloading a sound measurement app?

Read this National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) review first:  So How Accurate Are These Smartphone Sound Measurement Apps?

Scroll to the end of the blog post for a November 2016 update to NIOSH’s initial 2013 study.

Think you’re improving your health by going to a spinning class? Think again:

Study says loud music played during classes may contribute to hearing loss.  , Boston Magazine, reports on a Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary study that found that “the speaker-shaking beats at your local studio may contribute to hearing loss over time.”  According to Duchame, researchers using a smartphone app called SoundMeter Pro found that “[t]he average noise exposure in a single 45-minute cycling class…was more than eight times higher than the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) recommendations for an entire eight-hour work day.”  Duchame notes with alarm “past hypotheses that exercise compounds noise-induced hearing damage,” adding that “[i]nstructors and repeat class attendees, logically, are at highest risk.”

Thanks to @QuietEdinburgh for the link.

The scourge that is car alarms

In “The Alarming Truth,” Ilana E. Strauss, The Atlantic, looks at the confusing ubiquity of car alarms.  “Car alarms don’t deter criminals, and they’re a public nuisance,” she notes, so “[w]hy are they still so common?  Why indeed.

Car alarms “do very little of what they’re intended to do,” says Strauss, adding that ,”[i]f two analyses done in the 1990s still hold, 95 to 99 percent of all car-alarm triggerings are literally false alarms.”  And then there are the very real costs.  Strauss writes:

Worse, car alarms may be affecting the health of the people around them when they go off. A report from Transportation Alternatives, a bicycle-advocacy organization, estimated that New York’s car alarms lead to about $400 to $500 million per year in “public-health costs, lost productivity, decreased property value, and diminished quality of life.” An estimate from an organization whose stated goal is “to reclaim New York City’s streets from the automobile” should be taken with a grain of salt, but the point still stands that car-alarm sounds are stress-inducing and sleep-interrupting.

As anyone awoken at 4:00 a.m. by a yowling alarm that will not stop knows, once the alarm is finally stopped–usually after a minute that feels like much more–returning to sleep is near impossible.  And for what?  According the Strauss, the answer is “nothing.”  The good news? Very few news cars come with alarms, but some owners still buy them in the after market.  Click the link above to read the whole thing.

Thank to @jeaninebotta for the link.

What Is A Safe Noise Level For The Public?

Dr. Daniel Fink, Founding Board Chair of The Quiet Coalition, explains that there are three safe noise levels, depending on which adverse impact of noise you want to avoid. It’s much lower than you think.  Click here to learn more!

 

UK charity takes on restaurant noise

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Action on Hearing Loss launched Speak Easy, its campaign that asked restaurants, cafes, and pubs “to take noise off the menu,” this past summer.  Last week, the organization announced that its free Speak Easy Campaign Pack is available to the public.  The pack includes:

  • Discreet, supportive materials to hand over to staff or leave with your bill.
  • Ideas for sending effective feedback.
  • A thumb prop for expressing your views on social media.

Action on Hearing Loss understands that “[r]epeat customers are the lifeblood of restaurants, cafes and pubs,” and that millions of people would like to enjoy a meal or drink out at a quieter venue.  Rather than waiting for places to discover this underserved market, they are giving Brits the tools they need to demand quieter options.

Although there isn’t a similar campaign in the U.S.–yet–readers who live or work in New York City can find quieter venues by visiting our sister site, Quiet City Maps, which reviews and rates the noise level and comfortability of New York City restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and more.  Whether you’re at your desk planning a night out with friends, or on your smart phone looking for a nearby quiet place, Quiet City Maps can help you quickly find the perfect place to eat, drink, and have a conversation!

Is Your Noise Making Me Fat?

Photo credit:

Photo credit: Yukari

By Daniel Fink, M.D.

Is your noise making me fat?  That may seem like a silly question to ask, but there is strong scientific evidence that traffic noise causes obesity.  More specifically, increased traffic noise–whether from highways, airplanes, or trains–is strongly correlated with central obesity.  Central obesity (or “truncal obesity”) is in turn linked with increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, and cardiac disease leading to increased mortality.

Why would noise cause obesity?  The auditory system evolved from vibration sensing mechanisms in primitive organisms which were used to sense predators, or by predators to find food.  Noise perception remains a major warning system, even in mammalian species.  Except for fish, most animals above the phylum Insecta close their eyes when they sleep but cannot close their ears, except for some which swim or dig.  Noise at levels not loud enough to cause hearing loss in humans interferes with sleep, causing a rise in stress hormone levels. These in turn alter carbohydrate and fat metabolism, leading to fat deposition. And that can cause diabetes and high blood pressure, which in turn cause heart disease.

A study published in 2015 showed a clear association between noise exposure and central obesity.  Another study published that year showed that noise caused increased heart disease and death.

And 100 million Americans are exposed to noise levels loud enough to cause these problems.

There is probably nothing specific about traffic noise that makes it more likely to cause health problems than any other source of noise, except, perhaps, the factor of unanticipated noise may be important.  It’s just easier to study the effects of traffic noise on humans than asking thousands of people to use personal sound monitors for long periods of time and then collecting and analyzing those data.  Noise is noise.

It’s obviously difficult to measure the non-auditory health impacts of everyday noise exposure–in the streets, in restaurants and stores, at sports events, at concerts–on an individual, but noise has powerful physiologic effects.

So as both noise levels and obesity levels rise in the United States, the answer to the question, “Is YOUR noise making ME fat?” may be “Yes!”

What can we do? For those living near highways, airports, or railroad tracks, double pane windows and wall and attic insulation may provide some protection.  But the best approach to noise is to limit it at its source, which will require political pressure to get laws passed to require quiet, especially nighttime quiet.

After the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control was defunded 35 years ago (pdf), noise is largely a local government issue.  So if you want change, you have to speak up for yourself.  One easy step is to look at your local government’s website to see if noise is identified as a constituent issue.  If not, contact your local government representative and ask to speak to him or her about noise problems in your neighborhood or around your workplace.  In addition, an internet search should reveal whether your community has a group that is organized to fight noise in your town (click this link for a map of noise activist and quiet advocacy organizations).  Find out if they are active and go to a meeting to see what they are doing.  If politicians see that an issue is important to constituents, it is in their best interest to address that issue it they want to be re-elected.  If they ignore it, they can be replaced.  An active constituency ensures a responsive politician, at least on the local level.

Noise is omnipresent and insidious.  Because it’s everywhere, people assume that it must be tolerated and cannot be regulated.  But when air pollution became so noticeable and obviously unhealthy that it couldn’t be ignored, government responded with forceful legislation.  As a result, our air is cleaner today than it was in 1970America has gotten noisier and hearing loss in on the increase.  As with air pollution, we need robust government action to regulate noise.  If you care about your health and the health of your family, push back against noise, demand action, and join your neighbors to promote a peaceful, quiet, and healthy environment.

Dr. 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 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.