Shorts & Briefs | 6 May 2019 | Big Noise

What are we doing to our hearing? “The New Yorker” in the current issue takes a serious look at a

What are we doing to our hearing? “The New Yorker” in the current issue takes a serious look at a serious, and seriously neglected, threat to health, especially in developed nations. There is a great risk, not just of developing impaired hearing, but of far worse diseases and disorders, some irreversible. The worst hearing impairment is a little-known condition called hyperacusis, but its occurrence is rare, and it’s the result of life in post-industrial societies. Not the case for far more dire consequences, of existential significance. As the article suggests, “Noise is now seen as a factor in a range of ailments, including heart disease.” Be aware.

One of the alarming observations reported here is that the knowledge of the depredations of excessive noise on the environment, on humans, and on creatures in the wild (including the world’s oceans) have been known since the 70s, especially by our US government. Here’s what it reports:

Measuring noise is important, [Arline Bronzaft, retired professor of environmental psychology] said, but it isn’t an end in itself. “If I don’t see the data being used to get action, I’m not going to be happy,” she continued. “We had all this stuff in the nineteen-seventies. And what have we done?”

So read this typically engaging account of the phenomenon and threat:

Is Noise Pollution the Next Public Health Crisis?

5 thoughts on “Shorts & Briefs | 6 May 2019 | Big Noise”

  1. I routinely ask “please turn down the music” at almost every restaurant I enter. They usually do. I remarked just two days ago at an event with a live band (whose sound level was only exceeded by its crumminess) that (and it’s à propos that the event was a benefit for and at an arts collective that included amongs the metal workers, potters, and typesetters some silkscreener) I was going to commission a tee-shirt that read: please turn down the music.

    1. My problem in restaurants is often noise, but from a different source. It’s the more diffusely distributed generators of noise which are the human vocal chords, mixed with a generous amount of the ambient sounds of hard objects made of glass or metal or wood or laminates, and the like, striking one another, a soupçon of the sounds constantly emanating from the trendy views of an open kitchen.
      As is usual with me, my biggest gripe is with heedless, clueless, and fundamentally self-absorbed humans, driven by fellow-feeling for sure, but determined to make their communal instincts manifest as loud sounds emanating from their mouths. They shout, they laugh out loud, they bellow on the phone, they play videos and audio tracks with the volume up.
      And yes, in many eateries, under the din, as a kind of bass line to the cacaphony, is the music provided—and I am sure it is to inspire the aggregate sound levels to the famous threshold of pain—by the owners and managers, who are mainly interested in raking it in. Noise means more drinks ordered (and alcohol is a kind of fuel to the intensity of the noise), and, ironically, more of an ultimate urgency to leave. I’m going to leave this for you here… No rush… If you want anything else, let me know, and we can add it to the check.

  2. So noise is like so many of the wonderful gifts from our advancing society – cigarettes, pollution, DDT, thalidomide, and many more! We do seem to shoot ourselves in the foot rather often, and well….and we don’t seem to be able to let go of the “benefits” of those inventions, regardless, in many cases, of the side effects…
    Based on personal observation and measured impact, I have a sound level app on my phone, and when sound reaches a harmful level, I leave wherever I am and find a quieter place…but not everyone has that freedom…

    1. Yeah, I have a sound level meter on the iPhone… I would have guessed there was an app that notified you about the ambient sound level, but so far I’ve done well with the app embedded in my brain, which activates my mouth and sometimes my feet when I detect dangerous levels. As I try to avoid crowd scenes altogether, it’s usually public eating places that are culprits. I’m not shy about speaking up to management, and I’m not averse to activating my feet to carry the rest of me out of there, if there’s no other relief. There’s nothing like being able to tell a maître d’ just exactly what the sound level reading is in his or her place, and how the appropriate authorities might appreciate a report. Otherwise, I try to have with me earbuds that have a noise-reduction component to their design, and best in that regard are Bose (and other brands) noise cancellation products.

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