Tag Archive: noise

How I became a noise activist

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This essay by pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, describes how she became a detective and public health activist after detecting high lead levels in her patients’ blood in Flint, Michigan.

It reminded me of how I became a noise activist after reading an article about hyperacusis, a medical condition in which noise causes pain at sound levels not perceived as painful by others.

Just as with the safe lead level being known but ignored, the safe noise exposure level to prevent hearing loss has been known since at least 1974, but ignored by regulators and public health authorities after the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control was defunded by Congress during the deregulatory era that was the Reagan years. It took me a year to figure out what the safe noise exposure level was to prevent hearing loss.

Fortunately, public health authorities have begun to recognize the dangers of noise exposure for the public. As this report shows, noise has adverse non-auditory health effects and may be causally associated with dementia.

But we must pressure our elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels to set safe noise exposure standards, and then to enforce these, to protect the health of ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren.

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.

Hearing loss in young people changes brain function

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Since I became a noise activist and started learning about the dangers of noise, I have been predicting an epidemic of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in young people due to their ubiquitous use of personal music players with associated headphones or earbuds, often turned up loud enough to annoy me when they walk past. This article reports that young adults with subtle hearing loss also have brain function changes detected on functional MRI scans.

We don’t just hear sound with our ears. We have to process the information from the ear in the brain. According to this study, hearing loss makes the brain work harder.

There is a well-known association between hearing loss and dementia, with worse hearing being correlated with a greater risk of developing dementia. And it now looks like this problem starts in early adulthood, not late in life.

So unfortunately, I’m going to predict that there will not only be an epidemic of NIHL when today’s young people reach midlife–in their 40s and 50s, not in their 60s, 70s, and 80s–but there will also be an epidemic of early-onset dementia.

When will the public health authorities and regulators–the FDA, CDC, and Consumer Product Safety Commission–take necessary action to protect our young people?

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.

There doesn’t have to be a tech “solution” to everything

Case in point: The sun-blocking umbrella drone.  One could just carry an umbrella around, but no, a couple of tech bros came up with something spectacular:

WARNING: Lower the volume on your device!

Make that spectacularly awful. Says Sasha Lekach, Mashable, the “annoying hum and buzz renders the entire concept useless.”  And what is its intended use? Why “[i]t’s intended for golfers on sunny greenways.” Of course it is.

The umbrella drone is as likely to exist as Uber’s flying taxis.

Montana county looks to limit noisy bitcoin mining

 

The Independent Record reports that Missoula County is considering limiting bitcoin mining operations “amid concerns over noise, the amount of energy used by the cryptocurrency mining operations, and how that energy consumption could affect consumers.” Turns out mining virtual currency causes real life problems, like imposing a permanent hum on the neighbors generated by “the hundreds of fan blades” used to cool the mining factories.

But as much as we are appalled by ridiculous activities that make noise, this is quantifiably more horrible: The Independent Record states that “mining a single bitcoin takes as much electricity as it does to power the average American household for two years.”

Noise is usually a sign that something is wrong in a system.  That seems loud and clear here.

Dr. Erica Walker takes on Boston’s noise

Photo credit: Robbie Shade licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Boston Globe looks at the important work conducted by Dr. Erica Walker, research scientist and creator of the NoiseScore app, who is tackling Boston’s noise head on.  As writer Chris Berdik states, “Walker may know more about noise in Boston than anyone.” And because she also knows about the dangers of noise, Walker is dedicated to informing the public about this “little-studied pollution.”  As Berdik writes:

New research by Walker and others suggests that noise doesn’t just hurt our hearing. Chronic noise exposure floods the body with stress hormones that can lead to higher blood pressure, more blood clots, and a greater likelihood of heart problems and stroke.

Berdik says that Walker believes public health researchers “don’t take noise seriously enough, particularly in the United States,” and that her goal it to change that by “starting with creating a more comprehensive measure of noise exposure”

We applaud Dr. Walker’s hard work and dedication in protecting our public health.

Tips on fixing annoying noise issues at home

 

Photo credit: FWStudio from Pexels

Nancy Mitchell, Apartment Therapy, offers tips on how to quiet five annoying noises at home, from squeaky floorboards and a creaky door to a noisy radiator.  Click the link to learn about what you can do to make your home a quieter, relaxing oasis.

Calgary councillors take aim at motorcycle noise

 

Photo credit: Calgary Reviews licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Calgary Herald Editorial Board writes that “city politicians are once again turning their attention to the excessive sound of motorcycles and other vehicles with noisy mufflers and other needless modifications that are an irritant to all but the self-absorbed owners themselves.”  This year, the pols are looking at Edmonton, where there is a test underway that uses “a new photo-radar-style noise gun [that] is showing promise.”

If Edmonston’s test is successful, it’s possible that Calgary will adopt the technology and both cities could consider automating the device “to issue fines to too-loud users of public roads, including at nighttime, when the disturbance is particularly upsetting to residents trying to get a good night’s sleep.”

And the city of Calgary will heave a sigh of relief.

 

Using “thick data” to make a smart city

 

Photo credit: IK’s World Trip licensed under CC BY 2.0

Adrian Smith, The Guardian, writes about Barcelona, a “pioneering Smart City,” that has been using sensors in various city infrastructure along with citizens via mobile devices “to monitor and anticipate urban phenomena in new ways, and, so the argument goes, efficiently manage urban activity for the benefit of ‘smart citizens.’”

Enter the residents living around Plaça de Sol, a popular square that has become, for residents, a bit too popular, especially with bars, restaurants, hotels, and tourists.  And with the addition of more bars, restaurants, and tourists, comes more noise, always. So back in 2017, a group of technology activists got in touch with residents and started a project under which residents were given “tools to measure noise levels, compare them with officially permissible levels,” with the aim of reducing noise in the square.

And what followed shows how complicated the embrace of thick data and citizen engagement can be, as the residents’ desire to reduce noise has to be considered along with the needs of bar and restaurant owners.  As a city councilman pointed out:

Beyond economic issues are questions of rights to public space, young peoples’ needs to socialise, neighbouring squares worried about displaced activity, the Council’s vision for Gràcia, and of course, the residents suffering the noise.

Click the link above to read this fascinating article.

The “new secondhand smoke”

Photo credit: Kris Arnold licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Mindy Fetterman, Governing.com, writes about what cities and states are doing to cut noise. The short answer is “not enough.” But at least they are starting to address noise, as cities go after the low hanging fruit, like helicopters and leaf blowers.

So click the link and see if your city is doing anything to address noise.  And for those who think noise is a mere annoyance, consider the comments of Rick Neitzel, Ph.D., director of environmental health policy at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and a co-founder of The Quiet Coalition, who said:

“The consensus is that if we can keep noise below 70 decibels on average, that would eliminate hearing loss,” Neitzel said. “But the problem is that if noise is more than 50 decibels, there’s an increased risk of heart attack and hypertension,” he said. “Noise at 70 decibels is not safe.”

Arline L. Bronzaft, PhD, awarded APA’s 2018 Presidential Citation

Photo credit: Susan Santoro

The Quiet Coalition co-founder Arline L. Bronzaft, PhD, as been awarded the first American Psychological Association Citizen Psychologist Presidential Citation “as an exemplar of passion, coalition building and leadership for her sustained community activities in New York City.” The award is in recognition of Dr. Bronzaft’s service to five New York City mayors as the chairperson of the Noise Committee of GrowNYC.org, her landmark research in the 1970’s on the effects of subway noise on children’s learning, her work helping the NYC Department of Environmental Protection update the city’s Noise Code, and her work implementing a noise education curriculum for the NYC public school system.

The APA has honored Dr. Bronzaft for her lifelong commitment to making the world quieter and healthier.  Kudos, Dr. Bronzaft!