Tag Archive: noise pollution

National Parks: Why quiet matters

By David Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

On May 4, Science and Phys.org™ published news reports about a recent, significant, multi-year study about the pervasiveness of noise pollution in 492 national parks and natural areas across the U.S.

In “Noise Pollution is invading even the most protected natural areas,” Science writer Ula Chrobak notes that:

The great outdoors is becoming a lot less peaceful. Noise pollution from humans has doubled sound levels in more than half of all protected areas in the United States—from local nature reserves to national parks—and it has made some places 10 times louder, according to a new study. And the cacophony isn’t just bad for animals using natural sounds to hunt and forage—it could also be detrimental to human health.

Under the study, researchers from the National Park Service and Colorado State University “recorded noise at 492 sites across the country with varying levels of protection, [and] used the recordings to predict noise throughout protected areas in the rest of the country.” They also estimated naturally occurring ambient noise and compared the noise levels with and without humanmade noise. The results were damning: noise pollution doubled sound levels in 63% of protected areas and caused a 10-fold increase in 21% of protected areas.

And the impacts of that noise pollution affect all living things withing these areas.  Phys.org reports interviews Rachel Buxton, the study’s lead author and post-doctoral researcher, who states that “[t]he noise levels we found can be harmful to visitor experiences in these areas, and can be harmful to human health, and to wildlife.” The noise pollution findings means that “noise reduced the area that natural sounds can be heard by 50 to 90 percent,” which “also means that what could be heard at 100 feet away could only be heard from 10 to 50 feet.”

So what is the impact on humans and wildlife?  Phys.org explains:

This reduced capacity to hear natural sound reduces the restorative properties of spending time in nature, such as mood enhancement and stress reduction, interfering with the enjoyment typically experienced by park visitors. Noise pollution also negatively impacts wildlife by distracting or scaring animals, and can result in changes in species composition.

High levels of noise pollution were also found in critical habitat for endangered species, namely in endangered plant and insect habitats. “Although plants can’t hear, many animals that disperse seeds or pollinate flowers can hear, and are known to be affected by noise, resulting in indirect impacts on plants,” said Buxton.

The study results have been widely reported, showing that there is real interest in protecting our national parks and natural areas.  Researchers know that “many people don’t really think of noise pollution as pollution,” but they hope that this study will encourage more people to “consider sound as a component of the natural environment.”

The National Park Service’s huge portfolio of parks and natural areas provides a huge canvas for researchers concerned about the impacts of “noise pollution.” You may be surprised to learn that the National Park Service has a research division called “Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division” that has been looking for several years at the effects of noise not only on visitor experiences, but also on plants and animals. Their work is fascinating and resulted in a 2014 report from the National Academy of Engineering called “Preserving National Park Soundscapes.

David Sykes chairs/co-chairs four national professional groups in acoustical science: The Acoustics Research Council, ANSI S12 WG44, The Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Working Group. He is also a board member of the American Tinnitus Association, co-founder of the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics (LARA) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0 (2012, Springer-Verlag), and a contributor to “Technology for a Quieter America” (2011, National Academy of Engineering). A graduate of the University of California/Berkeley with graduate degrees from Cornell University, he is a frequent organizer of and speaker at professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Is it too late to save the orcas?

Wanyee Li, Toronto Metro, reports that researchers are concerned about the state of the health of the 78 remaining orcas of the Salish Sea orca population.  “The killer whales are declining for a variety of reasons ranging from infection, starvation, and conflict with large ships, both head-on and from the noise pollution they emit.”  Researchers say they know what to do to save these animals, but the problem is finding the political will to do it.

Kim Dun, an oceans specialist with  World Wildlife Fund Canada, said that “noise pollution is among the biggest threats to the whales,” because a “noisy environment that makes it harder for the whales to do what they need to do to survive.”  The combination of threats is enough “to choke the iconic animals until there are not enough whales to keep the population alive.”

In related news, recordings show that baby humpback whales and their mothers “whisper” just in case killer whales are nearby.  Ecologists studying the humpbacks say that this determination highlights the need to regulate ocean noise, because the discovery “suggests that human-produced machinery sounds could be particularly harmful to calves and their mothers.”

 

Please, god, no:

If you want a picture of the future, imagine every billboard screaming for your attention — forever

The sound of the Internet of Things (and why it matters for brands). Yes, yet another article about using sound for branding.  Apparently we aren’t spending enough money so branding gurus–or whatever they are calling themselves these days–are trying to figure out how to make their brands stand out from competing products and services through the use of sound.  And in an attempt to appear thoughtful as they invade public and private space with invasive sound, they write stuff like this:

Brands need to start creating a sound ecology that differentiates them whilst supporting their consumers. As we interact with a product, watch a commercial or experience a retail environment, it is only the brands of the future that have a fully considered, cohesive and familiar sonic identity that will stop us reaching for the mute button.

How about no?  We are already assaulted by layers of noise whenever we enter the public sphere, do we really need to have even more layers of competing sound added to our increasingly chaotic soundscape?  As if that’s not offensive enough, these branding fiends want to use sound for alerts for our now connected home appliances, leaving us not a moment of silence in our homes as our dishwashers and refrigerators beep and pop, competing for our attention. Because reasons!

At some point, if business refuses to show restraint, someone must step in to stop this anti-social behavior.  No matter how convenient it may be for some people to have their devices scream at them for attention, what of the innocent bystanders who are simply attempting to go from Point A to Point B?  Will no one think about our right to be left alone?

Link via @QuietMark.

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.

 

God save us from the sound branders

Imagine all of this “sound branded.”

Because there isn’t enough noise in the world. Goldstein, a “music and sound consultancy with an outstanding track record in film, advertising, experiential marketing and sound branding,” writes about sound branding.  What is sound branding, you ask?  Goldstein explains:

There is a common misconception that the term Sound Branding refers only to the creation of ‘sonic logos’ or ‘sound signatures’. While these elements undoubtedly played a significant part in developing the field, it has expanded into something much richer and more valuable than a synonym for jingle-making. In its totality, it’s about the strategic curation of anything that can be usefully heard by a target audience – this could be a bespoke composition for an interactive product, the playlisting for a chain of hotels, or even an installation of generative sound art for a department store.

We would suggest a simpler–and more accurate–definition: the purposeful intrusion into an individual’s’ personal soundscape by someone trying to sell them something.  Adding that the idea of companies competing by employing sound branding could quickly spiral into hell on earth in public spaces.

Age doesn’t matter,

you could have hidden hearing loss (and not know it). WMAR Baltimore reports on hidden hearing loss, a relatively recently discovered hearing breakthrough that explains how people who pass hearing tests have problems hearing in noisy environments.  WMAR interviewed audiologists about this breakthrough, who said that “why patients can’t decipher speech in noisy situations has been unexplained, but a new breakthrough is changing that.”  The researchers who made the hidden hearing loss breakthrough studied young adults who were regularly overexposed to loud sounds, and found that “hidden hearing loss is associated with a deep disorder in the auditory system.”

It’s never too late to protect the hearing you have.  Exposure to loud sounds damages hearing.  Period.

 

Noise: the forgotten pollutant

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

, The Irish Times, writes about environmental noise, which he terms “the forgotten pollutant.” Why forgotten? Because Purcell believes that people living in urban areas have grown accustomed to ignoring noise.  But that may be coming to an end, Purcell opines, because due to “the constant and rapid development of globalised economies and cities, the world is getting noisier.”

Purcell examines the known negative health effects of noise and looks at the work done by acoustic scientists and engineers, who “generate sophisticated noise maps, which graphically represent urban areas based on how loud or quiet they are.”  He interviews Dr. Eoin King, an assistant professor at the University of Hartford, who states that “noise mapping is the first step in the environmental noise management process.”

Why is noise mapping is important?  Dr. King says that it “enables policymakers to determine the overall extent of noise pollution, so that appropriate decisions can be made.”  But making a noise map is both time-consuming and expensive, or at least it used to be time-consuming and expensive. One exciting development led by Dr. Enda Murphy, associate professor at University College Dublin, and Dr. King, is the use of simple smartphone apps to create the maps inexpensively. Eventually, says King, “smartphone apps that can measure noise accurately…might present the possibility of live noise mapping in the future.”  And with live noise mapping comes “new noise data [with] a range of applications, from predicting health problems, to the market pricing of real estate.”

Click the link to read the full article.  It’s a very interesting read.

 

Now showing at the Consumer Electronics Show 2017:

Orosound’s Tilde Noise Management Earphones

Orosound’s ‘noise-managing’ earphones hush unwanted sounds. While we appreciate tech startups that focus how we can manage noisy environments, we can’t help but to point out the obvious: Instead of developing gadgets that allow people to limit the noise invading their personal soundscape, why not limit the noise at its source? Just a thought.

Until that happens–in our lifetimes, one hopes–we will report on the products and services you can use to keep unwanted sound at bay and control the soundscape of your slice of the world.