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2411, 2021

Apple’s patented in-ear sound level monitoring

November 24th, 2021|

Photo credit: Jess Bailey Designs from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Patently Apple has written about the technology behind Apple’s newest patent for in-ear sound level monitoring, i.e., sound pressure level monitoring. Having a patent approved is a notable achievement, and we congratulate Apple on developing the new technology and the obtaining the patent for it.

I have one problem with the post. Namely, it understates or actually distorts what is known about safe noise exposure levels to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. The post states:

For instance, extended exposure to sounds at or above 85 dB may cause temporary or permanent hearing loss in one or both ears. Therefore, some organizations (e.g., the National Institute for Occupational Safety and health (NIOSH) has recommended that worker exposure to ambient noise be controlled below a level equivalent to 85 dBA for eight hours to minimize occupational NIHL.

It also says that “[r]ecently, the World Health Organization has released hearing health safety standards that limit the maximum sound output of a headset to 85 dBA.” Decibels are abbreviated as dB, and A-weighted decibels, adjusting dB measurements to reflect the frequencies heard in human speech, are dBA.

The problem is that there is

2311, 2021

City living can be bad for your health

November 23rd, 2021|

Photo credit: Ramil Ugot from Pexels

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

That air and noise pollution as well as a lack of green space may impede on the mental and physical health of urban dwellers is not surprising. Yet, as Carla Delgado points out in her article at Discover, noise pollution gets less attention especially with many people believing it is a “byproduct of modern life.” Yet, the literature linking noise to adverse physical and mental health effects, e. g. hearing loss, cardiovascular disorders, sleep patterns, cognitive and learning abilities is plentiful. Quiet areas, including parks and green spaces, on the other hand, enhance our health and well-being.

Delgardo writes about a research project called Urban Living at Kings College, London which is collecting data from volunteers who have been given an app that can measure their experiences in urban and rural environments. The researchers hope the data they collect “may involve the planning and design of healthier cities.” City dwellers hope this as well.

William Sullivan, a professor at the University of Illinois who is the Director of the University’s Smart, Healthy and Communities initiative,

2211, 2021

Hearing loss down on the farm?

November 22nd, 2021|

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This piece on Agriculture.com discusses noise-induced hearing loss. We city dwellers think of the countryside as being quiet, but that’s not correct for those who grow or raise the food we eat.

As writer Lisa Foust Prater puts it, “[g]rain dryers, tractors, combines, livestock, chain saws and other saws, and firearms are the top culprits when it comes to hazardous noise on the farm.”

Prater writes:

How loud is too loud? The short answer is if you have to raise your voice to be heard by someone 3 feet away, the environment is too loud. If a noise causes ringing in your ears or a temporary reduction in hearing, it’s too loud.

She is correct.

Unfortunately, Prater writes that “[t]he specific answer is that any sound level over 85 decibels or prolonged exposure to sounds over 80 decibels can cause hearing loss, according to GPCAH.“ GPCAH is the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, located at the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa, and they should know better. 85 decibels, actually 85 A-weighted decibels, is the recommended occupational noise exposure level. It doesn’t protect workers from noise-induced hearing loss, and certainly isn’t safe

1911, 2021

NYC restaurant designed for people with disabilities

November 19th, 2021|

Photo credit: ELEVATE from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article onToday’s website discusses Contento, a new restaurant in New York City. The restaurant was designed for owner Yannick Benjamin, who was paralyzed as the result a motor vehicle crash and uses a wheelchair, and his business partner, George Gallego, who also uses a wheelchair.

Part of the bar is at wheelchair height. All doors, including those to the ADA-compliant bathrooms, are wide enough for wheelchairs. There are no steps or ramps. People in wheelchairs don’t need to use the back entrance or go through the kitchen.

No one in a wheelchair needs to feel different, or that anything special is being done for them, because the modifications needed for accessibility were designed in.

“Sometimes there’s a lack of empathy,” said Benjamin, who added:

I always tell people that are in restaurants to please not rush people with disabilities, because they’re constantly being rushed. And sometimes they work a little slower. It takes a little time for them to get ready. Give them a chance. You don’t know what it took them to get to your restaurant, so show a little appreciation and show some patience.

This is a terrific

1811, 2021

Will the infrastructure bill’s public works be approached with “noise in mind”?

November 18th, 2021|

Photo credit: John St John licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

A recent article in the New York Times  looks at how the $1 trillion infrastructure bill will lead to a long-to-do list of public works projects in New York City and its neighboring regions as well as other cities around the country. The bill’s funding will be used to improve roads, rail systems, and airports. The article notes that “federal money could pay to plant tree, and rain gardens” in East Harlem, and it could also cover parts of a highway “that are sunken below street level –and perhaps cover it with a park.

It was good to see this article point out that a bill centered on improving infrastructure could bring about increased green spaces in urban areas. Parks and gardens also bring greater quiet to urban centers but quiet was not mentioned in the article. Nor did the article mention noise which is generally associated with construction and road, rail and airport transportation.

For the past forty years I have

1711, 2021

From the mouth of babes, wisdom about protecting your hearing

November 17th, 2021|

Photo credit: Kevin Bidwell from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Well, I’m exaggerating. A resident physician and a medical student aren’t babies, but they are still in training. Despite this, Michael Denham and Alexander Chern give sound advice about protecting your hearing in an Op-Ed in The New York Daily News.

The interesting point they make is that many if not most of us have gotten used to wearing masks to protect ourselves from COVID-19 infection, and we should learn from that in terms of protecting our ears from auditory damage.

They focus on those attending loud concerts, and mention interesting public health efforts in the Netherlands, but their advice might also apply to subway riders in New York City, and really to anyone anywhere.

As they correctly note, the only current treatments for hearing loss are amplification (hearing aids and cochlear implants), which are poor and expensive substitutes for well-preserved natural hearing.

So protect your hearing every day. Because if it sounds loud, it’s too loud, and your hearing is at risk.

1611, 2021

Toronto considers noise radar to stop loud vehicles

November 16th, 2021|

Photo credit: Ryan licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

Toronto, like New York City, Westchester County and cities in Europe, is planning to develop a system to curtail excessive vehicle noise. Jack Landau, blogto.com, reports that Toronto’s noise radar system would involve installing “microphones programmed to respond to a specific decibel level, activating closed-circuit television cameras that capture license plates” in quiet residential neighborhoods. Drivers whose license plates are identified by the “noise radar” system would then be issued fines or tickets.

The Toronto City Council then directed several city services to study the system and report back in 2022 on its feasibility and to outline what “amendments to provincial legislation would be needed for the plan to go through.” Since other cities, like London and Paris, have reported on pilot programs employing sound cameras to cut back on vehicle noise, Toronto, like New York, should obtain copies of these reports as they move forward with their ideas on how to capture the sounds of the loud vehicles that have contributed significantly to the

1511, 2021

Loud noise causes fluid buildup in the inner ear

November 15th, 2021|

Photo credit: Blausen.com staff (2014), “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014,” licensed under CC BY 3.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Loud noise exposure, such as at a rock concert or after using a noisy appliance or power tool, causes temporary auditory symptoms such as muffling of sound. If hearing testing–audiometry–is performed, a phenomenon known as noise-induced temporary threshold shift (TTS or NITTS) is also found. This is a decrease in hearing that usually resolves over time.

The reason the temporary auditory symptoms or TTS occurs has not been understood, but new research done at the University of Southern California’s Keck Medicine of USC, shows that the cause is probably a buildup of fluid in the inner ear, technically known as endolymphatic hydrops.

The study was done on mice, using a technique known as optical coherence tomography to measure the fluid buildup in the cochlea. Application of concentrated salt solution–hypertonic saline–appeared to help resolve the condition and prevent permanent nerve damage.

The research needs confirmation by other researchers, and animal research may not be directly translatable to humans even when the research animal has almost the same genetic material as humans, but it’s exciting to know that

1211, 2021

Dentists at risk for noise-induced hearing loss

November 12th, 2021|

Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

One usually doesn’t think of occupational hearing loss as a problem for professionals, just for factory workers or miners or heavy equipment operators, but it is a problem for dentists. The high-frequency whine of turbines used to power drills and polishing equipment causes noise-induced hearing loss.

This report on the Dentistry Today reminded me about this problem. A more scientific study is this 2016 article in BDJ Open.

The important thing to remember is that noise causes hearing loss, whether at work, at home, or at a rock concert or sports event.

If you can’t carry on a conversation without straining to speak or to be heard, the ambient noise is above 75 A-weighted decibels and your hearing is at risk.

Move away from the noise source, leave the noisy venue, or insert your ear plugs to allow your hearing to last you a lifetime.

Because if something sounds loud, it’s too loud.

1111, 2021

Keep loud protests away from hospitals

November 11th, 2021|

Photo credit: GoToVan licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist, Member, The Quiet Coalition

People have targeted hospitals across Canada with noisy protests against government ordered pandemic public health measures, such as vaccine passports. Thousands gathered at hospitals to yell and chant, with news and social media showing protestors using airhorns, bullhorns or megaphones, and amplified microphone systems.

Protestors are being condemned for interfering with safe access to healthcare, especially for ambulances and emergency vehicles. But noise impact on patients and loved ones inside the hospitals has been ignored.

As far back as 1999, international public health guidelines have recommended quiet sound levels for hospitals. Noise hinders speech communication between healthcare providers and their patients and interferes with sleep, rest, and recovery.

In the days leading up to these protests, healthcare workers begged organizers to move the locations to city halls or government buildings where public health decisions were made. These pleas were ignored, and more hospital protests are being organized.

The Canadian federal government is planning legislation to make it a criminal offense to block safe access to buildings providing healthcare.

I think there is also a critical need for

1011, 2021

Is noise a reason workers resist returning to the office?

November 10th, 2021|

Photo credit: Nicola Barts from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Is noise rage contributing to worker resistance to returning to the office after working from home during the COVID lockdowns?

This report from the National News, United Arab Emirates, suggests that noise could be a factor. A survey by the technology firm Poly of more than 7,000 workers in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Poland, and the UAE found that noise concerns were a problem.

We don’t know if this is an issue in the United States–no American workers were surveyed–but we do know that office noise, especially in open floor plan offices (a.k.a. cubicle farms) has been a longstanding issue. Employers might also want to be aware that in addition to bothering workers, office noise decreases productivity. And that’s something most employers do not want.

911, 2021

Audible ads irk NYC subway passengers

November 9th, 2021|

Photo credit: Pedro Plassen Lopes licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

In 1985 the Metropolitan Transportation Authority introduced the Music Under New York Program as a pilot project, and with the enthusiastic support of transit riders, it has developed into a program where individual performers have entertained riders as they traverse through the transit system. The program had been halted for a period of fourteen months during the pandemic but it returned in June.

But the “Lion King” music ads that have been roaring this week on subway platforms were not viewed positively by subway riders. Conor Skelding, NY Post,  reports the ad reached a punishing decibel reading of 99.1 at one of the stations, and he notes that the federal government “actually require[s] that employers take protective measures if workplace noise exceeds 85 decibels.” Additionally, Skelding reports that dozens of riders had complained to the MTA about the volume and the number of these loud ads. In response to these complaints, the MTA “tuned the volume down.” It was also acknowledged that

811, 2021

A short course about noise

November 8th, 2021|

Photo credit: Gabriel Hohol from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Our noise colleague, and Quiet Coalition co-founder, Arline Bronzaft, PhD, Professor Emerita at the City University of New York, will be giving a 3-session online course about noise in New York City next month.

The course will also cover the scientific evidence about the auditory and non-auditory health effects of noise.

New York City–“the city that never sleeps”–has long been one of the noisiest cities in the world, with noise noted as a problem in the early part of the twentieth century. Whatever New York and it’s citizens have learned about noise is probably relevant to anyone living in a large city.

As Dr. Bronzaft points out, there is a common feeling that individuals cannot make a difference about noise, but her experience and that of many others shows that if enough people advocate for quiet and engage with their elected officials, a quieter city is possible.

511, 2021

NYC Transit Authority again required to report on noise

November 5th, 2021|

Photo credit: Peter Thoeny – Quality HDR Photography licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has signed legislation that requires the New York City Transit Authority to once again submit reports on its efforts to reduce noise. Legislation requiring the reports existed in the 1980s but was deemed no longer appropriate by 1994. People who live near New York City’s elevated train tracks, including Angela Kravtchenko and residents of the Brightwater Towers in Brooklyn, welcome the passing of the “Stop the Noise Bill” introduced by State Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus and State Senator Leroy Comrie, because despite earlier efforts to reduce transit noise, elevated train noise continues to adversely impact their lives.

After conducting research on how elevated train noise reduced reading scores of children in classrooms adjacent to the tracks in an Upper Manhattan School in the 1970s, I continued to learn more about how elevated train noise affected people living, working, and attending schools near these noisy elevated trains.

Furthermore, I also explored ways that the

411, 2021

Dense plantings may help block noise

November 4th, 2021|

Photo credit: Jo Kassis from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report from Discover discusses how plants can help absorb, diffuse, or block noise, especially road traffic noise.

I didn’t know that noise actually makes leaves tremble, transforming sound energy into mechanical energy, and thereby dissipating it.

To reall make a difference, the plantings have to be both tall and dense. But when it comes to noise, every little bit helps.

311, 2021

Toronto Health Board chair calls for air show ban

November 3rd, 2021|

Photo credit: Kenan Babayiğit from Pexels

by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist, Member, The Quiet Coalition

Joe Cressy, the Chair of the Board of Health in Toronto, Canada, has called for a ban on the local annual air show. Cressy, who is also the Spadina-Fort York councillor, believes it’s time for new traditions, without this annual noisy event that disturbs people and pets.

Noise risk to public health is well established. Although critics point out uncontrolled problems with daily noise from loud motorcycles and vehicles, construction, and other common sources, annual events add to everyone’s lifetime noise exposure.

We agree that air show bans are needed.

211, 2021

“Of Sound Mind”

November 2nd, 2021|

Image courtesy of MIT Press

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The phrase “of sound mind” is in the New Testament, but it came to have the legal meaning of “that state of a person’s mind which is adequate to reason and comes to a judgment upon ordinary subjects, like other rational people.”

But that’s not the meaning Northwestern University Prof. Nina Kraus has in mind in her wonderful new book, “Of Sound Mind.” Prof. Kraus summarizes what she and others have learned about how our brain constructs a meaningful sonic world. For her, the “sound mind” is the hearing brain, that part of the brain that processes what the ear perceives and transmits to the brain.

My focus on noise has generally stopped once the electrical signals generated by sound waves moving the tympanic membrane (ear drum) reach the eighth cranial nerve, i.e., the auditory nerve, so it was fascinating to learn more about how the brain processes sound.

For example, I didn’t understand how much the brain controls how sound is heard and processed by efferent signals to the ear and various nuclei–processing way stations in the neural pathways for sound from the ear to the brain and back–so that

111, 2021

NY Gov. Hochul signs SLEEP Act into law

November 1st, 2021|

Photo credit: Markus Spiske from Pexels

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

Legislation signed by Governor Hochul on Friday to “increase penalties against motorists and repair shops that illegally modify mufflers and exhaust systems to make them excessively noisy” has been welcomed enthusiastically by the many New York City residents who have been kept awake by these loud vehicles night after night. Preventing New Yorkers from receiving adequate sleep can indeed impede their health. Noise pollution is a health hazard!

The legislation, known as the SLEEP Act, was introduced by State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, in response to the many complaints they received from their constituents who reported these noisy vehicles were intruding on their health and well-being. With the pandemic increasing the levels of stress among residents, these loud vehicles serve to exacerbate this stress. Furthermore, as the article indicates, loud driving is too often accompanied by reckless driving. Thus, this legislation is hoped to reduce reckless driving as well as noise.

As with all legislation, the good the legislation hopes to bring about can only be realized if the legislation is enforced.

2910, 2021

Could crowd noise affect a game’s outcome?

October 29th, 2021|

Photo credit: Maryland GovPics licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

We have written a number of blog posts about football stadium noise, in both the professional and college game. Last weekend there were concerns that crowd noise at the Baltimore Raven’s home stadium could affect the outcome of the game.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow had a throat contusion, and there was concern that he might not have been able to call his plays loudly enough above the roar of the Baltimore crowd.

Good thing I didn’t predict the winner based on these concerns. Cincinnati crushed the Ravens 41-17, moving into first place in the AFC North.

But seriously, athletic ability should enable the team to win the game, not home field advantage conferred by noise.

Fortunately for both Cincinnati and the game of football, that’s what appears to have happened.

2810, 2021

Loud motorcycles do not save lives

October 28th, 2021|

Photo credit: Sven van Bellen from Pexels

by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist

A recent article by Tristin Hopper in Canada’s National Post argues that motorcyclists are wrong when they say, “Loud pipes save lives.” I agree that aftermarket exhaust system modifications to make motorcycles louder don’t improve safety.

Loud pipes don’t alert other drivers that a motorcycle is coming. Loud pipes only leave a lot of harmful noise pollution as motorcycles go by. The noise is also enough to give the rider noise-induced tinnitus or hearing loss.

Hopper wishes these motorcycle riders would recognize the error of their ways and realize, “Maybe I’m not the only person in the world. Maybe, just maybe, there are other homo sapiens who live around me and they may not like to be involuntarily subjected to unsafe levels of auditory pollution.”

Since that is unlikely to happen voluntarily with people who like things loud, Hopper recommends police actions for unmuffled motorcycles include tickets, fines, and license demerits. I suggest loss of license and motorcycle confiscation as disincentives to make aftermarket exhaust modifications. The suggested use of sound radar to target enforcement has been considered in some cities.

Federally approved exhausts have been required for

2710, 2021

This is a quiet airport

October 27th, 2021|

Photo courtesy of Dr. Daniel Fink

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I recently flew from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I was pleasantly surprised to see the electronic display screens scroll through a number of messages about free Wi-Fi, mask requirements, availability of free COVID vaccines, and then the announcement: “This is a quiet airport.”

Air travel after 9/11 and then especially during the continuing COVID pandemic is stressful enough. One doesn’t need additional noise to add to the stress.

I tried to find when and where the quiet airport movement started but, in a rare Google search failure, couldn’t find the answer.

London Heathrow was the first place where I became aware of an airport deliberately taking steps to improve the acoustic environment of its passenger terminals, specifically by eliminating flight announcements and relying on digital display boards to notify travelers of gates and loading times, etc.

San Francisco aims to reduce indoor noise by 40%.

Heathrow is trying to do even better by making the airport quieter outside as well, and also trying to reduce carbon emissions. Heathrow calls its program “Fly Quiet and Green.”

We hope all airports adopt indoor and outdoor quiet programs soon. The Federal Aviation Administration should

2610, 2021

Quiet time can help kids make better decisions

October 26th, 2021|

Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

The answer to the question raised by Laura Goertzel in her article on whether quiet time can help kids make better decisions is a resounding YES. The article quotes Professor Mary Helen Immordino-Yang who writes about the importance of quiet in a child’s development. Goertzel then suggests ways parents can create quiet spaces and silent opportunities for their children.

Many of the readers of my posts know about my research and writings on the adverse impacts of noise on health. However, few may be aware of my book “Top of the Class” (1996), which looked at the lives of academic high achievers, people who excelled at college and after they graduated from college. Many of the people interviewed for this book were now older. While I wanted to know about how they fared professionally and personally after graduating college, I also asked about them about their childhoods.

Many of these academic high achievers spoke of quiet in their homes—quiet times to read, quiet times to do homework, and quiet times to think. They also noted that

2510, 2021

Author couldn’t afford hearing aids until her 6-figure book deal

October 25th, 2021|

Photo credit: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This poignant piece on Slate by author Ariel Henley describes how she couldn’t afford hearing aids until she got a lucrative book deal.

Henley suffers from a rare genetic condition, Crouzon syndrome, which causes facial deformities that in her case required multiple surgeries. As a complication of her disorder and its treatment, she developed hearing loss.

She had hearing aids as a child, but when she became an adult these were not covered by her health insurance, even though she was working. She made too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford costly hearing aids, costing $5-7,000 or sometimes more for a pair.

Finally she sold a book she had written about growing up with Crouzon disorder, Western ideas of beauty, and ableism in our society. Thanks to a good contract from the publisher, she was finally able to afford hearing aids. And now she can hear.

According to the FDA, only 20% of adults needing hearing aids have them, largely due to cost. We hope the proposed Medicare expansion will cover hearing aids, and that new proposed regulations for over-the-counter hearing aids will allow

2210, 2021

The subway shouldn’t be “ear-splittingly loud”

October 22nd, 2021|

Photo credit: Tommi Komulainen licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

Rory Bennett took a decibel meter into the London subway and learned that the sound levels recorded in the transit system were exceedingly loud. He reports that he was shocked to find decibel readings exceeding 100 dB. When he inquired as to whether being exposed to the loud sounds of the transit system could harm riders, he learned that while hearing loss accumulates over time, passengers traveling frequently on the London transit underground could in time injure their hearing.

Bennett’s next question centered on the cause of the noise. Maintaining the system properly and replacing parts of the tracks were ways to reduce the noise he learned, but doing so might cause disruptions in operations and the expenditure of funds. London Underground officials, according to the article, want to avoid transit disruptions and costly repairs.

Having been interested in understanding the causes and impacts of transit noise on mental and physical well-being, dating back to the 1970s when I conducted my research on the

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