Tag Archive: why?

85 decibels is not a safe sound level for anyone, particularly children

Photo credit: Luis Marina licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

It’s very frustrating to see headphones advertised as safe for children when they use the 85 decibel noise exposure standard without specifying a time limit. It shouldn’t be surprising, though, as even the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders states, “[l]ong or repeated exposure to sound at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.”

But 85 decibels is not a safe noise level without a time exposure limit. I wrote about this in the American Journal of Public Health in January 2017. This 85 A-weighted decibels (dBA) exposure standard is an occupational standard: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that workers get no more than 85 A-weighted decibels noise exposure, calculated for an average working life of 8 hours a day, 240 days a year, for 40 years. Even that exposure level doesn’t prevent all exposed workers from hearing loss. A-weighting reflects the frequencies heard by the human ear and A-weighting almost always lowers the sound measurement by 5-7 decibels. The decibel scale is a logarithmic scale, which means that 3 decibels more indicates a doubling of sound energy, and it is sound energy that destroys the cochlear hair cells, the basic sensory organ for hearing.

For children who may start using headphones as early as three years old, 40-years exposure to 85 decibels delivered directly to their ears via headphones means that they may be profoundly hearing impaired in their mid 40s. That’s not a good thing.

I suppose headphones with the occupational noise exposure level, A-weighted or not, as a volume limit are better than headphones without any volume limit. But
parents and grandparents would be wise to avoid getting their little darlings these unsafe headphones, or any headphones, unless they want to buy them hearing aids when they get older.

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.

Dear god, no!

It will be like this, but horrible | Photo credit: Cliff licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Noise Curmudgeon alerts us to the horribly misguided marketing idea–because it must be the marketing department that’s behind this–that is the Nissan Canto. You see, electric cars tend to be quiet, so some sound must be engineered so that they can be heard by blind people listening for aural clues, other pedestrians, animals, etc.  Rather than engineering a traditional car engine sound for the Canto, Nissan has decided to be clever and will torment us with a “singing car.”  And by singing they mean making a variable high pitched annoying drone that will drive poeple mad.

Hear it for yourself:

Oh, that’s not so bad, you may be thinking. Then imagine a street filled with “singing” cars.

My god.

Subways can be quieter

Photo credit: Tim Adams licensed under CC BY 2.0

In San Francisco, BART is grinding down wheels on its cars, making the ride quieter. New York City, like San Francisco, uses metal wheels on its subways, making for a screechy, ear drum-bashing experience from the platform to the car. So BART’s attempt is a step in the right direction. But….

Here’s how you make for a much better subway soundscape:

We can dream of a subway future with rubber tires. It’s possible.

What’s missing from this story about stadium noise in Atlanta?

Aaron Rodgers: It’s loud in Atlanta, whether it’s all natural or not.  How about a discussion about the dangers of stadium noise?  It’s nowhere to be found. Instead, this NBC post focuses on noise as a tactic and the stupidity of getting caught juicing natural crowd noise with fake crowd noise over the stadium speakers. To wit:

The Falcons were stripped of a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft and fined $350,000 after an investigation revealed that they had been using fake crowd noise while the opposing offense was on the field during the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

And? Were the Falcons penalized for injuring the hearing of every person in the stadium, or were they fined for violating whatever passes for sportsmanship in football?

This chest thumping over which stadium can produce the most noise–as if that’s a measure of anything good–would be merely pathetic if it weren’t so dangerous.

We can’t tell if this is an elaborate joke (or not):

Photo credit: TaxRebate.org.uk

Hushme’s voice-masking headset could save your sanity! Or not.

The 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas just wrapped up and, as usual, there were a handful of “interesting” gadgets that we may or may not ever see online, much less at a retail store.  Hushme must be on that short list.  Essentially, Hushme is a mask you place over your mouth (while wearing Bluetooth earbuds) that allows you to take a phone call without other people hearing you.  And to add an element of fun to this “interesting” product, the manufacturers allow you to play a series of sounds through external speakers to further obscure things (while killing the idea that Hushme will allow you to make a call without distracting those around you, but whatever).  How is playing sound through external speakers fun?  When it’s “sounds of some R2-D2-style beeping” or “[h]eavy, Darth Vader-ish breathing.”  Fun!

Click this link to view the Hushme promotional video and see if you agree with the description of the Hushme as “stylish.”  And be sure to keep your eye out for Hushme’s crowdfunding effort scheduled for sometime this year.  $200.  That’s what they expect to ask for each and every Hushme.

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.

Was there no alternative?

Former banker makes money keeping partyers quiet, spreads the appeal of “quiet clubbing” across the country.

No doubt you are wondering what goes on at a quiet clubbing event.  Good question.  According to Crain’s, at a quiet clubbing event partygoers wear “wireless headphones that connect to the music of one of several live DJs,  Each headset has a color LED light that indicates which music the wearer is listening to. The atmosphere is clublike, with strobe lights and booze, but the noise level is lower.”

While we applaud the desire to lower noise levels, we can’t get the image out of our heads of a roomful of people dancing and singing along to different playlists in an otherwise quiet room.  And what about those who think that quiet clubbing is antisocial?  The former banker/current club diva disagrees, stating that quiet clubbing is “the opposite of antisocial because unlike a traditional club, people can take off their headphones and actually have a normal conversation without screaming at the person standing next to them.”  Finally, a solution to the problem of trying to have a conversation in a club!

That said, taken to its logical conclusion, and thanks to virtual reality, soon anyone can throw a quiet clubbing party in his or her own apartment.  Just grab a pair of VR googles, put on your 3D headphones, and dance with yourself and your virtual friends.

Thanks to Charles Shamoon for the link.