Tag Archive: decibels

How the lockdown allows us to hear nature

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

Dr. Richard leBrasseur, who studies the differences between urban and rural landscapes and the influences of these landscapes on human development and behavior, concludes his article “How COVID-19 shutdowns are allowing us to hear more of nature” by asking urban dwellers to go out onto their porch or balcony to listen to the “sounds of nature.” I live on the Upper East Side in Manhattan and did not need to go onto my terrace to hear the sounds of birds this morning. They awakened me at 6:40 a.m. as they did a few days ago. What a wonderful way to wake up on a street that is usually bustling with traditional loud urban sounds.

Dr. leBrasseur reports on sound measurements of urban and nature sounds taken before the pandemic and then after the pandemic changed our soundscapes. In his February readings in Truro, Nova Scotia, he recorded the sounds of cars, planes, barking dogs, etc. which were rated quite high on the decibel scale used to measure the loudness of sounds. But in April he was recording nature sounds in these same locations which were considerably lower on the decibel scale. While Dr. leBrasseur acknowledges that some people enjoy urban soundscapes, he points to the research that has found that these sounds can still have a negative effect on our health. On the other hand, he cites the research that has demonstrated the benefits of natural sounds to our health. These include “reduced heart rate, reduced levels of anxiety, increased positive emotions, overall wellbeing and increased productivity.”

Urban dwellers generally have to travel to quieter areas to enjoy the sounds of nature and reap their benefits. I wonder if the natural sounds that they are experiencing now can indeed bring them the comfort that is traditionally associated with such sounds. I ask this because the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has elicited feelings of stress and anxiety. Additionally, many urban dwellers report today that they miss the city sounds that were at one time viewed as disturbing. One cannot blame them for essentially “missing their old lives.”

For now, I agree with Dr. leBrasseur when he says we should go out and listen to nature in our neighborhoods. “It won’t last.”

Dr. Arline Bronzaft is a researcher, writer, and consultant on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health. She is co-author of “Why Noise Matters,” author of “Listen to the Raindrops” (children’s book illustrated by Steven Parton), and has written extensively about noise in books, encyclopedias, academic journals, and the popular press.  In addition, she is a Professor Emerita of the City University of New York and Board member of GrowNYC.

Indoor cycling classes are bad for your ears

Photo credit: jalexartis licensed under CC by 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article in Vox documents that sound levels in many indoor spinning or cycling classes exceed safe limits to prevent hearing loss. This is an occupational safety and health issues for the instructors, who have many more hours of exposure than those who exercise, but the background music is loud enough to endanger the hearing of those just exercising for an hour or two each week.

One wonders why the state and federal occupational safety and health inspectors haven’t taken action. Maybe this report will spur an inquiry.

Dr. Daniel 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 is 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.

Why do people hate leaf blowers?

 

Leaf blower overkill  |  Photo credit: Hector Alejandro licensed under CC BY 2.0

Because everything about them is so awful!

Well, that’s just our opinion. , howstuffworks.com, gives a more detailed answer. Dove starts by noting that “unlike lawn mowers, leaf blowers are probably the most villainized devices in the lawn care universe,” because they are now used year-round and for many–most?–the noise level they create is unacceptable. As a result, when leaf blowers first became common in the U.S., Dove says two California communities, Carmel-by-the-Sea and Beverly Hills, banned leaf blowers back in the 1970s.  And they have been followed since then by hundreds of communities nationwide that have banned or limited their use.

Why are leaf blowers so hateful? Dove asks and answers:

What is it about leaf blowers that people hate? Is it the decibels? The constancy? Do leaf blowers pose real dangers to the health of users or others who happen to be within earshot? Increasingly, the answer appears to be “yes” —to all of the above.

In the end, leaf blowers create a whirlwind of dust that includes, among other things, dried animal feces, molds, and fungi. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers emit a litany of horribles, including benzene, a known carcinogen. And then there is the noise, which is not merely a nuisance but also a serious health threat.

As for those who would ask how we could possibly deal with fallen leaves without leaf blowers, may we suggest the following:

Photo credit: Carol VanHook licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

Rakes are a healthier, cheaper, and quieter alternative to the loud, filthy, and dangerous leaf blowers we’ve put up with for entirely too long.

 

Noisy restaurants in the news again

Photo credit: Matt Biddulph licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

By Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Two reports this week, one from the United Kingdom and one from Baton Rouge, again highlight the problem of noisy restaurants.

Restaurateurs say that a quiet restaurant is a dead or dying one. They want their places to be lively. But there’s a difference between a lively restaurant with spirited conversations going on among the diners, and one that is deafeningly loud, making it impossible to converse with one’s dining companions.

Yesterday, while looking for another piece of information in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) classic 1974 “Noise Levels Report” Information on Levels of Environmental Noise Requisite to Protect Public Health and Welfare with an Adequate Margin of Safety (EPA, 1974). I came across Table D-10, which I had missed on an earlier reading.

EPA Recommended Acceptable Noise Levels for Restaurants  (Click to enlarge)

It turns out that the EPA recommends that restaurants be very quiet, only about 50-60 decibels. These days, that’s almost “library quiet”. In fact, some months ago I measured the sound level to be approximately 45 dBA in the main circulation room of my local library!

So concern about appropriate restaurant noise levels is not a new concern. It’s decades old.

Some have suggested that diners should walk out of noisy restaurants, or boycott them. But in many cities, if we did that, we would never eat in a restaurant. There just aren’t any quiet ones. And as long as the restaurants are full, there is no incentive for them to become quieter.

I don’t know about the UK, but in the U.S., lawsuits under disability rights laws may be the only way restaurants will become quieter.

Dr. Daniel 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 is 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.

Noise is a public health hazard and a hazard to your most important capital asset:

Nine sources of noise that will damage your house’s value.  Emmie Martin, Business Insider, writes about a recent study by Realtor.com that “calculated the price difference between homes within a certain radius of nine major noise factors — including airports, highways, and emergency rooms — and the median price of homes in the rest of that ZIP code.”  Click the link to see how noise effects house prices.  There isn’t much prose, but the slider makes it clear that noise matters when you are buying or selling your home.

 

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.

 

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.

Thoughtless car owner ignores car alarm for hours

car-photo

But nearby sous chef saves the day by engaging crowd in playful revenge prank.  That the car owner found his or her car in one piece and minus deliberate scratches or slashed tires shows the compassion and self-control most people are able to exercise.  Kudos to the chef for coming up with a clever way for people to vent.  We can only hope that the car owner was publicly shamed as he or she came to retrieve their automobile.

Link via @jeaninebotta.

Anti-social miscreant nabbed by cops

Photo credit: El Segundo Police Department

Photo credit: El Segundo Police Department

Joseph Serna, L.A. Times, reports that “praise poured onto El Segundo Police Department’s Facebook page from ecstatic residents” this past Sunday, November 13th.  Why?  Because “'[t]hey found the air horn guy!!’ wrote Jenn Birch.”  Yes, John W. Nuggent, pictured above, outfitted his “little blue four-door, 2006 Chevrolet Aveo” with “an air tank with hoses connected to a device near the car’s gas pedal.”  When the officer tried the car’s horn, he heard what sounded like the horn of “a big truck or train.”  Nuggent then admitted that he was the guy who had been driving down the middle of the street for six weeks, waking up the residents with his horn, all to annoy one specific resident with whom he had had a dispute.

Nuggent was arrested on suspicion of disturbing the peace.  We suspect the prosecutor should get an easy conviction.