Tag Archive: NPR

NPR on misophonia

Photo credit: Barney Moss licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

There are three main auditory disorders: hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. But there’s a lesser-known fourth one, misophonia. Of these, only hearing loss is well understood, with the others understood in decreasing order as listed. And misophonia is often dismissed as a mood disorder.

This piece by NPR sheds some light on misophonia, the little-known and least understood auditory disorder that’s marked “by intense emotion like rage or fear in response to highly specific sounds, particularly ordinary sounds that other people make.” High on the list of hated sounds are mouth sounds like slurping and chewing, which makes life difficult for people with misophonia.

One hopes that other media pay attention to disorders like misophonia and approach the topic as thoughtfully as NPR has.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Motorcycle noise is not a first amendment right

Photo credit: Pulicciano licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This story by NPR discusses what will be the last Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride in the nation’s capital. The Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride first took place in 1988, an excuse to ride loud motorcycles through Washington, D.C. to honor veterans and troops killed in action, and to put pressure on the government to do more to find those still missing. The organizers of the Rolling Thunder ride will be organizing their last event in Washington D.C. this coming Memorial Day, 2019. After that, they will celebrate local and regional motorcycle rides but won’t have an organized ride in D.C. because “the event had become too costly and that federal agencies were making it overly difficult to organize.”

A Pentagon spokesperson said, “[t]he department supports the peaceful, lawful exercise of American citizens’ First Amendment rights, and remains focused on ensuring the safety and security of the demonstrators and the Pentagon Reservation. The department is prepared to support the 2019 Rolling Thunder ride, as we have for the last 31 years.”

Some might interpret this statement to mean that the Pentagon supports citizens riding noisy motorcycles as an exercise of their free speech. I don’t think this is what those who wrote and passed the First Amendment meant. And I don’t think this is what the Pentagon means, either.

I’m a doctor, not a constitutional lawyer, but I can read the Constitution as well as anyone else. The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Honoring veterans and pressuring the government to find those still missing action, and complaining about restrictions on a large, noisy motorcycle event are examples of protected free speech. Motorcycle noise is not.

States clearly have a legal right to regulate motorcycle noise, and according to the American Automobile Association, many do, even if state and local police agencies are reluctant to enforce these laws.

And there’s a federal law as well, namely transportation noise emission regulations. The law is very detailed, with different decibel levels depending on the engine size and purpose of the motorcycle (street use or off-road use) but 80 decibels is a common limit. Many if not most motorcycles exceed this limit.

Motorcycle riders may be a powerful constituency, but they are a minority. Their right to make noise stops at our ears.

If enough citizens exercise our First Amendment rights to complain to elected officials and police authorities, the laws will be enforced and we will have a quieter world.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

What’s More Distracting Than A Noisy Co-Worker?

All quiet before the storm

All quiet before the storm

Turns Out, Not Much.  Yuki Noguchi reports on co-worker noise for the NPR, presenting a couple of individual accounts of co-workers behaving badly.  As you are no doubt aware, the problem is universal, with “[s]ounds, particularly those made by other humans, rank[ing] as the No. 1 distraction in the workplace.”  As we have reported before, noise in the workplace has been made worse by the misguided “popularity” of open offices.  They are popular with the corporate executives who impose them on an increasingly demoralized workforce, seen as a rational money-saving move because lower real estate costs are easier to quantify than decreased employee morale and productivity.  And worker morale and productivity do suffer, as Noguchi notes that the “University of California’s Center for the Built Environment has a study showing workers are happier when they are in enclosed offices and less likely to take sick days.”

So, what can be done?  “There are solutions,” says workplace design expert Alan Hedge.  So what are those solutions?  Because the “trend toward open offices and hard office furniture makes noise distraction worse,” Hedge suggests that “adding carpet, drapes and upholstery can help.”  He also recommends removing cubicle walls entirely, as they “provide the illusion of sound privacy, but actually make people less aware of the noises they create.”  Or you could try the advice given in this Business Insider article: How to tell a noisy coworker to shut up without making them hate you.  A quick scan reveals the piece should be titled, “Things that sound like solutions but aren’t because no one will ever do this.”

Finally, there is also another option: bring back offices and let people have a quiet space to do their work.  Just a suggestion.

 

 

Turning Down The Background Noise

Could Help Toddlers Learn.

NPR reports on a recent study published in the journal Child Development that found that “[]loud background noise may make it harder for toddlers to learn language.”  NPR adds that “[m]any other studies have already found that background noise can limit children’s abilities to learn. Television noise, in particular, is ubiquitous in American homes and may negatively affect a child’s ability to concentrate.”

And there’s more.  Click the first link for the full story.