Tag Archive: Manhattan

Why do elderly people with otherwise normal hearing have difficulty hearing some conversations?

Background noise to blame for the elderly being unable to keep up with conversations.  The Express reports on a University of Maryland study that found that “adults aged 61-73 with normal hearing scored significantly worse on speech understanding in noisy environments than adults aged 18-30 with normal hearing.”  The study’s authors stated that the “ageing midbrain and cortex is part of ongoing research into the so-called cocktail party problem, or the brain’s ability to focus on and process a particular stream of speech in the middle of a noisy environment.”  Because many older people who are affected by the “cocktail party problem” have normal hearing, the study notes that talking louder doesn’t help.  If an older person can see the person he or she is speaking to, visual cues can help, as well as the obvious–make the environment quieter.

Sadly, many restaurants, bars, and some coffee shops are just too noisy for older people to be able to hear well and participate in conversation.  Organized efforts to push back against unnecessary noise are gaining a toehold in the public sphere, but more needs to be done.  Until things improve, New Yorkers can find some respite by visiting our sister site, Quiet City Maps, for a guide to New York City’s quieter spaces (and a heads-up for places to avoid).

And don’t forget that if a restaurant or coffee shop is too noisy because of loud music, ask them to lower it.  If they don’t, leave and tell them why you won’t be coming back.  Push back starts with your wallet.

Link via @QuietEdinburgh.

Well, it can’t hurt:

New Bill Seeks to Make it Easier to Catch Developers Breaking Noise Rules.  DNAinfo reports that “[a] new City Council bill is putting pressure on developers behind noisy construction sites by making information about their mitigation plans more accessible to neighbors.”  Long and short, the new bill “would require the Department of Environmental Protection to post noise mitigation plans for construction sites on its website, and would require developers to post the plans on construction fences in clear view.”  Ok, that could help, but we couldn’t help noticing that the bill text doesn’t include penalties for violation (although that must surely be provided elsewhere).

Construction in the city is endless.  Every handful of dirt seems to have a construction crew attempting to put highrise on it. Anyone living near one of these sites knows that their quality of life takes a hit.  Recently Community Board 1 in Manhattan held a construction forum to address common complaints.  Click this link to read the responses to these complaints from representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Buildings.

 

 

Remember when you could enjoy a meal with friends without screaming through your meal?

Those days could be coming back: Why quiet restaurants are having a moment.

Debora Robertson, writing for The Telegraph, reports about the efforts by Svante Borjesson, director of the hearing charity Oir es Clave (“Hearing is Key”), who has launched an initiative called “Eating Without Noise.”  Borjesson signed up 22 restaurants to join the initiative, though most seem on the higher end.  Which is a shame, because a comfortable restaurant should be available for everyonthe rich. That said, when you consider the effect noise has on the dining experience, it’s foolhardy for any restaurateur to ignore the acoustics of their restaurants.  As Robertson notes:

Restaurateurs who pay more attention to the art on their walls than acoustics might want to rethink. The quiet restaurant movement is backed up science. A recent Cornell University study found that decibels definitely have an impact on deliciousness.

Yep, noise affects flavor.  And it’s important is to remember that a visit to a restaurant, especially with family or friends, is about much more than the food.  Robertson writes:

Most of us go to restaurants not just for the food, but also to enjoy the company of our friends. If we can’t hear what they’re saying, we might as well stay at home with Netflix and a bowl of pasta. But there are few things more enjoyable than sitting in a beautiful restaurant, eating something wonderful, catching up on the latest scandals and (possibly) watching other diners creating scandals of their own. Is it too much to ask for the gentle, sound-absorbing comfort of a well-insulated floor, the odd soft banquette, perhaps – whisper it – a tiny swathe of curtain?

Short answer: No, it’s not too much to ask.

And this is the perfect opportunity to introduce our sister site, Quiet City Maps, where we review restaurants, coffee shops, bars, parks, and privately owned public spaces based on how loud they are (or, one hopes, aren’t).  The focus at Quiet City Maps is comfort, i.e., whether the space allows for easy conversation.  We have started in Manhattan and hope to launch an app before very long.  And then?  Onward to Brooklyn, Queens, and points beyond!

Link via @QuietMark.

Noise is more than a mere nuisance:

How Noise Pollution Hurts Kids.

Read this fascinating piece by Olga Khazan about researchers who found that children who lived on lower floors in a high-rise building near a highway in Manhattan had a harder time distinguishing words than kids living on higher floors and they were worse at reading.  Frighteningly, “[t]he relationship between the kids’ scores and floor level was strongest for the kids who had lived in the building the longest.”

Noise is more than an annoyance when it can interfere with learning.

 

Mapping New York City Noise Complaints

The Atlantic’s City Lab reviews a new map by CartoDB that maps how noise is perceived in New York City.  CartoDB “[p]rogrammers mapped publicly available 311 noise complaint data from 2015 by Census tract, and layered on a dashboard that allows users to study those complaints against more than a dozen different metrics.”  City Lab notes that, “[i]t’s certainly not the only map made from 311 data out there, but it offers a lot more opportunity to play with the data yourself than most others.”  Definitely worth checking out.

Mapping noise complaints must have been the idea du jour this month, because The New Yorker also addressed 311 noise complaints in Mapping New York’s Noisiest Neighborhoods.

The New Yorker article also mentions an exciting development in the noise pollution front:

Margaret Chin, a councilmember from lower Manhattan, introduced a bill that would require the Department of Environmental Protection to start sampling noise across the city. The bill notes that “noise pollution is widely prevalent in urban areas” and that “transportation systems are the main source”—though it adds that bulldozers, air compressors, loaders, dump trucks, jackhammers, pavement breakers, loudspeakers, plumbing, boilers, air-conditioners, fans, and vacuum cleaners also bear considerable blame.

This is excellent news.  Before noise pollution can be properly controlled, we need to see the data.  Who knows, maybe city council will finally implement and enforce a noise regime that will make lilving in the city just a little bit easier.

Quiet City Map: Manhattan℠

We are happy to announce the launch of our sister site, Quiet City Map.   Quiet City Map is home to Quiet City Map: Manhattan℠, a map-based guide to places through out Manhattan where the sound levels are reliably comfortable (and, sadly, some places that are best avoided).  The map provides ratings for restaurants, bars, coffee shops, public spaces (e.g., parks, squares, and privately owned public spaces (POPs)), museums and retail stores according to sound level and sound quality.   Quiet City Map will host both the map and individual reviews for each map entry.  We hope that you find Quiet City Map: Manhattan℠ a useful guide as you navigate the city.