Tag Archive: eating

The benefits of quiet during the pandemic

Photo credit: cottonbro from Pexels

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

Hearing that there has been an uptick in COVID-19 cases, I have decided to continue to reflect further on the relationship between sound and this pandemic. With more people being hospitalized with COVID-19, I recalled my papers, written years ago, about the importance of quiet in the hospital setting. I looked at more recent literature and found that studies are still being done in this area. Dr. Julie Darbyshire heads the SILENCE project in the UK which is examining the effect of noise and quiet on hospital patients. They are still warning us of the detrimental effect of slamming doors, hospital alarms and other noises in our hospitals and the importance of quiet when it comes to patient recovery. Dr. Darbyshire has been quoted as stating that massive health gains can come from quiet hospital time. She also notes that noise can be harmful to the staff as well.

Let me point out, as I listen to the frequent ambulance sirens passing my home in Upper Manhattan, that our city’s hospitals should also pay attention to the detrimental impact of these loud ambulance sounds on the city’s residents who are hearing them more frequently lately. I understand that ambulances must get their patients to the hospitals as quickly as possible but I also am familiar with the “less offensive” European emergency sirens being used—so should the hospitals.

With many of us confined to our homes during this pandemic I am assuming that you, like I, may be listening to music for greater comfort. A study found that listening to classical music lowers a raised heart rate and blood pressure, but especially interesting in this study was the finding that a pause in the music of two minutes brought about a period of relaxation and decreases in blood pressure and heart rate. Apparently, the silence also was beneficial to one’s heart.

One of the downsides of staying in more is that we are closer to our kitchens for longer periods of time. To those people who are concerned about the effect of extra pounds on their health, I believe you will pay heed to the studies that have shown that quiet leads to less eating. Those who listen to the sounds that accompany their eating rather than loud music on their earphones or a loud television program will eat less food. So while above, I suggested that you will be comforted by your music, do turn it off while eating. Of course, resist going into your kitchen more frequently.

Yes, the pandemic has interestingly brought greater attention to our ears and the sounds around us—both the harmful ones as well as those that bring us comfort and pleasure. Will we continue to reflect on how sounds and noise affect us when this pandemic passes?

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.

Does the sound of chewing or pen clicking make you enraged?

You are not alone.  Misophonia is a disorder marked by “a hatred of sounds such as eating, chewing or repeated pen clicking.”  It’s not well understood, but the known universe just got a lot bigger thanks to a team of researchers from Newcastle University who have evidence that enraging noises are caused by a brain connection overdrive.

The lead researcher, Dr Sukhbinder Kumar of the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University and the Wellcome Centre for NeuroImaging at University College London, said that, “[f]or many people with misophonia, this will come as welcome news as for the first time we have demonstrated a difference in brain structure and function in sufferers.”   With this news suffers may see the end of one problem they often face; namely, the casual dismissal of their complaints by medical professionals.  As Dr. Kumar notes, “[t]his study demonstrates the critical brain changes as further evidence to convince a sceptical medical community that this is a genuine disorder.”


As if you needed another reason to ask for the music to be lowered:

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Can Your Ears Help Control Your Stomach?  According to a recent study, it looks like the answer is yes:

In one paper, marketing professors at Brigham Young and Colorado State universities asked 71 volunteers to eat a snack of pretzels while wearing over-the-ear headphones. Some volunteers were subjected to loud white noise from the headsets as they ate, while a second group heard quieter noise.

The result? Those listening to the loud noise consumed 49% more pretzels than those listening to the quieter noise. The findings suggest, according to the researchers, that the sound you make while eating is an important cue to how much you’re taking in. Listening to loud noise evidently made it harder to know when to stop, implying that dieters might want to turn down the music while dining.

Interestingly, the paper was the work of marketing professors.  No doubt the findings will be used by restaurant owners to crank up the volume even higher.