Articles Quiet Coalition2021-03-16T14:07:43-04:00


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504, 2021

60% rule is not safe personal listening

April 5th, 2021|

Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist (Retired)

Flawed noise risk assessments shared in the media are dangerous for public health. This is the case for a recent Arizona Daily Sun article that recommends a 60/60 rule for personal listening with headphones. This rule suggests that personal listening at 60% maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes a day is safe.

Dr. Daniel Fink and I have reviewed international research showing auditory damage in people listening above 50% maximum volume when using headphones and earbuds. As Dr. Fink told me, “discussing safe personal listening is like discussing safe smoking. There is no safe smoking, and there is no safe listening. There is safer listening, but it’s not safe.” There is auditory risk with an hour a day of loud volume personal listening, just as smoking one cigarette increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Listening at 60% of maximum volume setting is not safe for people with normal hearing. Using noise canceling or isolating earbuds or headphones help people listen safer at lower volumes when there’s ambient noise.

To make personal listening safer, go into device settings and turn sound output levels down as much

204, 2021

Quiet testimony: A visit to the Vietnam Memorial

April 2nd, 2021|

Photo credit: Steven Zucker, Smarthistory co-founder licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Hearing is so primal, so instinctive, you’re often unconscious of sounds around you. Until they’re gone.

A monument whose deep silence awakens people is the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. A fitting date to visit is March 29, designated by Congress as National Vietnam Veterans Day.

What’s remarkable is how your ears trigger myriad emotions as you enter it. A long, silent black gash on the landscape below but within view of its opposite–the astonishingly bright and erect Washington Monument. The Vietnam Memorial was controversial from Day 1, as it symbolizes America’s failure and tragic losses in a “war” that lasted 20 long years from November 1, 1955, to May 7, 1975.

What an astonishing contrast between the Washington Monument’s bold and bright symbol of aspiration and the dark trench of despair and failure lined with the names of every one of the 58,209 Americans who died there–without even mentioning the estimated 200,000 to 250,000 Vietnamese dead whose names are not recorded anywhere. For them the silence of absence.

Nine million Americans

3103, 2021

Universal design and DeafSpace guidelines

March 31st, 2021|

Image credit: Asmaa Hamed Abdel-Maksoud licensed under CC BY 4.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

When I was a boy I was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s marvelous Guggenheim Museum to want to become an architect. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any talent in drawing or design, and became a doctor instead. But I still like architecture, and have an appreciation for what good design can do for human activities and even the human spirit.

Something I learned as an internist-geriatrician is that built spaces can help people as they age, or require that they move because, for example, they can’t climb stairs or can’t maneuver a wheelchair or walker through a narrow hallway.

Anticipating those problems and designing spaces for them, to allow as many people as possible, with as many abilities and disabilities as possible, to use the built environment, is called Universal Design. I find the Irish National Disability Authority’s explanation of Universal Design easy to understand.

I was aware of articles about Universal Design in the workplace for those with hearing loss, but I wasn’t aware of the DeafSpace design guidelines developed at Gallaudet University until I read an article design for everyone in

3003, 2021

Airplanes, helicopters far more annoying than other sources of noise

March 30th, 2021|

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

In responding to an Federal Aviation Administration’s study that found airplanes and helicopters are “far more annoying than other sources” of noise, Congressman Thomas Suozzi of New York said the FAA survey “tells us what we already knew loud and clear – our communities are ravaged by aircraft noise.” Suozzi was joined by a group of House lawmakers representing districts where aircraft noise has been a continuous problem for residents, who added that “FAA measures to gauge the effects of aircraft noise have outlived their usefulness.” Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton of D.C. noted that the FAA’s failure to reduce and mitigate noise “shows a lack of willingness to make the necessary improvements.” And Attorney General Karl A Racine of D.C. reminded us that “decades of research has shown that exposure to noise can interfere with children’s ability to learn and harm human health.”

The FAA survey that began in 2015 and was reported on in 2021 focused on one impact of aircraft noise – annoyance. While we recognized that noise, including aircraft noise, was far more than annoying six years ago and could be considered hazardous to

2903, 2021

NASA is developing a quiet airplane wing to reduce noise pollution

March 29th, 2021|

Photo credit: NASA’s Langley Research Center

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report on NewAtlas discusses NASA research on a quiet airplane wing. The research uses a wind tunnel and a model airplane to determine the effects of new designs on noise.

As the report notes, people usually think of jet engine noise when discussing aircraft noise, but airframe noise is also a problem.

If the Federal Aviation Administration isn’t willing to try to make planes quieter, I’m glad that NASA is stepping up to the plate.

2603, 2021

Kathmandu struggles with horn noise

March 26th, 2021|

Photo credit: Volker Meyer from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

As reported in The Annapurna Express, noise from horns is a problem in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley. I haven’t been to Nepal, but I think of it as an unspoiled, scenic country in the Himalays with quiet, bucolic mountain communities surrounded by gleaming mountains.

At least in the Kathmandu Valley, I’m wrong.

Noise from vehicle horns continues to be a major problem, despite a “no horns” law passed in 2017. And road traffic noise is also a problem. The noise is loud enough to affect schools and the learning of students inside them.

Nepal isn’t the only country dealing with noise issues. These affect cities and rural areas in most of the world.

But their government agencies seem as disinterested as those in the U.S. about addressing the problem.

The only advice we can offer is that enough citizens complain to their elected representatives about noise, maybe something will be done to make Nepal quieter.

2503, 2021

WHO’s first report on hearing promotes H.E.A.R.I.N.G. interventions

March 25th, 2021|

by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist (Retired)

The World Health Organization has published the first ever World Report on Hearing. This report shows it’s more cost-effective to invest in prevention and universal health coverage for ear and hearing care than to continue paying rising costs of untreated hearing loss related to impaired learning, social isolation, poor mental health, accidents, dementia, and other health problems. The goal is to drive national public health policy to implement H.E.A.R.I.N.G. interventions by 2030.

The H.E.A.R.I.N.G acronym summarizes key interventions across the lifespan:

  • Hearing screening;
  • Ear disease management;
  • Access to technologies;
  • Rehabilitation services;
  • Improved communication;
  • Noise reduction; and
  • Greater community engagement.

The long term benefit is people with ear problems or hearing loss will get the testing, treatment, amplification, or rehabilitation they need at no financial hardship. Disability access will improve with enhanced listening technologies at schools and public venues, closed captioning availability, and sign language services where needed.

Interventions including safer listening education programs will help prevent noise-induced hearing loss from personal listening, entertainment venues like nightclubs, and occupations. A safer listening device manufacturing standard is outlined. The report doesn’t discuss health coverage of hearing protection or tinnitus and hyperacusis care. Interventions don’t address limiting harmful public

2403, 2021

Audubon Society reports birdsong was softer during lockdowns

March 24th, 2021|

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Audubon Society is probably the world’s leading birding and bird conservation organization, and its widely read magazine is a leading source of information about birds. This article by Daisy Yuhas in the Spring 2021 issue of Audubon Magazine discusses how the quiet of pandemic lockdowns over the last year impacted birdsong.

Many urban dwellers thought birds were singing more loudly because they could hear the birds sing, but research showed that the birds were actually singing more softly. They didn’t have to sing loudly so their songs could be heard over the usual urban din.

The birds were also singing differently. As Yuhas wrote:

The sparrows’ songs were 37 percent softer—much more than anticipated. It’s possible that the birds wanted to avoid standing out to predators. But the songs also featured new characteristics, including frequency changes, that experiments suggested could make birds more attractive to mates and better at defending territories.

Noise pollution affects all living things–insects, birds, small mammals, and humans. We hope that urban planners, elected officials, and noise regulators have learned how important quieter cities are, and will take steps to maintain quiet as the pandemic wanes and normal life returns.


2303, 2021

Humans bring noise to Mars

March 23rd, 2021|

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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

Am I surprised to read that NASA’s Mars rover, when it landed on Mars, brought “grinding, clanking, banging” to this planet? The answer is a resounding “No.” After all, having brought noise pollution to planet Earth in huge abundance, wouldn’t it follow that humans might very likely bring forth this pollutant to the planets that they will be exploring?

The vehicle, named Perseverance, that traveled along Mars’ surface, was sent to search for rocks that would be brought back to Earth for testing “for signs of past life.” However, the vehicle itself recorded the sounds it produced on Mars which consisted of “high-pitched scratching noise.” Interestingly, an engineer on the rover team stated, “If I heard these sounds driving my car, I’d pull over and call for a tow.” This article also lets us know that a helicopter will shortly fly over Mars. May I assume this will also impose noise pollution on the planet?

I recently learned that NASA is working on a quiet wing to reduce aircraft noise pollution. Thus, NASA is well aware of the adverse impacts of aircraft noise on the

2203, 2021

How noise pollution is harming your health

March 22nd, 2021|

Photo credit: Kathryn Archibald from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This 31-slide deck from MSN Lifestyle reviews how noise pollution is harming your health.

One might quibble with how some of the facts are presented, but overall the information is scientifically accurate.

Noise pollution, defined as unwanted sound in the environment, harms your health, and many of the slides explain how.


1903, 2021

The pandemic is making birds more musical

March 19th, 2021|

Photo credit: Ashithosh U from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

There have been many reports about how urban quiet caused by pandemic lockdowns allowed city dwellers to appreciate birds and their songs.

This report in Salon about a Spanish study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that Spanish city birds, like pigeons and starlings, quickly changed their patters of behavior in response to the pandemic quiet. Using citizen science, with Spaniards reporting their observations of bird behavior, the researchers found that birds were much more detectable, especially during early morning hours. Salon concluded that the pandemic quiet made the birds more musical.

And that’s a good thing for birds and for the people who can hear them, now that the cities are quieter.

1803, 2021

Could quiet “Skybrators” replace wind turbines?

March 18th, 2021|

Photo courtesy of Vortex Bladeless

by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

If you thought gigantic “farms” of wind turbines and solar-cells were the state of the art in alternative energy, think again. Jillian Ambrose in The Guardian discusses several quieter and more space-efficient alternatives for converting wind energy into electricity.

The alternative shown in this video is reminiscent of the way hair cells in our ears wiggle and dance to convert mechanical energy (vibration) from sound into electrical impulses, that are then transmitted to the brain for analysis:

But the “Skybrator” is also reminiscent of something you might find salaciously funny. Hence the nickname, Skybrator.

Nice to see a sense of humor in the alternative energy arena! Several other alternatives are also discussed. Since they’re attracting capital investment, this is a sign that the huge scale of alternative energy farms could be significantly reduced—a good thing. And less noise is always welcome!

1703, 2021

Recreational vehicles create noise problems in Moab

March 17th, 2021|

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

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report from the Moab Sun News discusses the problem of off-road vehicle noise there. As a city dweller who prefers to hike rather than ride in the wilderness, I had to look up the difference between a UTV, ATV, and OHV. From one link, I learned that “an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) is also known as “quad” or “four wheeler” and is meant for single-riders. A utility task vehicle (UTV) tends to be beefier and allows for “side-by-side” riding, which is why some simply call it a “side by side” or “SXS” for short.” From another, I learned that an OHV is an off-highway vehicle built by an automobile manufacturer, e.g., 4×4 vehicles that you might see advertised on television, fording streams or climbing muddy roads. Fortunately, I have never encountered any of these hiking in Europe or the Canadian Rockies, except seeing some UTVs on farms that we hiked near. These were clearly used for farm work, not for recreational riding on trails.

Moab is located in eastern Utah,

1603, 2021

Noise policy should protect wildlife, too

March 16th, 2021|

Photo credit: Sid Mosdell licensed under CC BY 2.0

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

The COVID pandemic has given people an opportunity to reflect on how the noises of urban life impact on the wildlife population of cities. At one time, according to Peter Fisher, Independent Australia, before cities were inundated with sounds from power tools, road traffic, waste collecting vehicles, and auto beeps, residents in Melbourne, Australia were able to awaken each morning and enjoy the “enchanting ‘ting ting’ of the bell bird.” Not only were these beautiful bird sounds enjoyable to the human ear but birds use their calls to maintain territories and attract mates. Yes, bird calls are important to the successful breeding of birds. Yet, how concerned have urban dwellers been in protecting the birds that have chosen to settle in urban environments?

The answer provided by Fisher is that local urban noise policy is set up to protect the health and well-being of humans, not wildlife. He notes correctly that noise can impact adversely on our mental and physical health including poorer reading comprehension and attention in children, and

1503, 2021

What you can do to preserve your hearing in your 40s

March 15th, 2021|

Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Channel News Asia lifestyle site provides sound advice on what people in mid-life can do to preserve their hearing.

There’s nothing really new, but the article highlights the fact that hearing loss may first become apparent in mid-life, and that protecting one’s ears from loud noise can help preserve good hearing.

And whatever age you are, there is one simple rule to remember: if it sounds too loud, it is too loud.  Leave the space or protect your hearing.


1203, 2021

It’s ok for children at play to be noisy

March 12th, 2021|

Photo credit: Alexander Dummer from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Quiet Coalition’s Arline Bronzaft, PhD, recently wrote about a website in Japan that allows people to report noisy locations, including noisy children. Dr. Bronzaft has a lot of experience with noise complaints, having served five New York City mayors and on the GrowNYC board as the pointperson dealing with noise issues.

This article by Katherine Martinko on Treehugger tells us that it’s okay for playing children to be noisy.

I agree. I always liked the sound of children playing, especially when they are outside, during the daytime hours.

As Martinko writes, many of her older neighbors in a small Ontario town find the sound of children playing to be music to their ears. The difference between her experience, and that of urban dwellers in Japan or New York City apartments, may be the proximity of the noise source and the hours during which the noise occurs.

That said, a neighbor’s children banging their blocks on the floor in the apartment above mine probably wouldn’t be music to my ears or anyone else’s ears.

1103, 2021

Frog noise-canceling headphones

March 11th, 2021|

Photo credit: Froggydarb licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist (Retired)

Ever had trouble understanding what somebody was saying in a noisy background? Frogs have a similar problem hearing mating calls when all the pond frogs are chorusing. Using 15 years of data from the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program, researchers discovered frogs have a built-in solution: their lungs act like noice-cancelling headphones to hone in on calls from same-species suitors.

There are natural differences in vocal frequencies between species. When frogs inflate their lungs, it cuts eardrum sensitivity across specific pitch ranges. This makes it easier to hear mating calls from their species while screening out calls by other frogs.

The scientists believe this physical mechanism of spectral contrast enhancement is similar to how noise-cancelling headphones work. It’s also similar to signal processing algorithms in hearing aids or cochlear implants where sound outside the main speech range is filtered out to lower noise interference.

One day humans will be back to gathering in groups, and having trouble understanding spoken conversations when there’s too much ambient environmental noise. Too bad we can’t inflate our lungs to cancel noise instead of waiting on decision makers to take

1003, 2021

How to protect yourself from noise-induced hearing loss

March 10th, 2021|

Photo credit: vxla licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This post on the Digital Trends site discusses how to protect yourself from noise-induced hearing loss. As the article notes, NIHL is insidious in its onset, and predictable in its course.

I disagree with one statement, however. Namely, the author compares NIHL to cancer. The difference is that some cancers can be cured, but NIHL can’t be cured. It can only be treated, currently with amplification devices.

Preventing NIHL is simple: if it sounds loud, it is too loud.

And your hearing is at risk.


903, 2021

Japanese website focusing on noisy children criticized

March 9th, 2021|

Photo credit: Máximo from Pexels

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

Over the past thirty years, many New Yorkers have contacted me at GrowNYC to assist with their noise complaints. A large number of these complaints deal with neighbor to neighbor noise intrusions, with some complaints focused on children running and playing around in upstairs apartments on non-carpeted floors. Complaints about noisy children have increased during the pandemic because people are now working at home and are much disturbed by the upstairs “noisy” children. Though many parents of young children allow their children to play during the day, such play often ceases at dinner time when neighbors are returning from work. With the pandemic, however, residents working at home are hearing children playing during the day and they want such noises to stop.

I have also received some complaints from residents living in private homes about noisy children playing in their backyards but these have been few over the years. Complaints about loud music from parked cars outside apartment buildings have increased during the pandemic but the people playing the music are not children. Also there have been complaints over the

803, 2021

Neanderthals could hear as well as modern humans

March 8th, 2021|

Photo credit: Erich Ferdinand licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

CNN and other media sources reported on a study published in Nature that Neanderthals could probably vocalize the same sounds and hear just as well as we modern humans do.

I don’t follow this branch of anthropology or human evolution, but my understanding based on reading the Nature abstract and the CNN report is that some authorities thought Neanderthals only were able to grunt. Detailed analyses of Neanderthal remains, however, indicates that they had the same voice and ear structures that we do. The conclusion is that Neanderthals were able to make complex sounds, and to hear them.

Obviously, there can be no experimental confirmation of these conclusions.

One thing I’m pretty sure of, though–although again there can obviously be no experimental confirmation–is that whatever Neanderthals heard, the ambient noise levels were much quieter than those we experience today.

It isn’t known if Neanderthals used drums or made sounds by banging two sticks together. But in nature loud noise is limited to a few sources–thunderstorms, waterfalls, landslides, avalanches, gatherings of birds, and animal cries. In Neanderthal times,

503, 2021

The World Report on Hearing

March 5th, 2021|

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The World Report on Hearing was released on March 3, World Hearing Day.

This 253 page document is a comprehensive review of all the causes of hearing loss across the lifespan. For adults, noise exposure at work and at play is a major cause of hearing loss, if not the major cause.

Noise-induced hearing loss may be the only entirely preventable type of hearing loss.

How can you prevent it? Avoid loud noise, wearing hearing protection devices if you can’t, and your hearing will probably last you an entire lifetime.

Because if something sounds loud, it is too loud–loud enough to cause hearing loss.

403, 2021

Forecast: A Plague of Locusts?

March 4th, 2021|

Photo credit: frank longwill licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Last month, we published a notice about the week-long conference hosted by the University of California Davis, the Aviation Noise & Emissions Virtual Symposium 2021. The conference took place from Monday, February 22, through Saturday, February 26th. The first day also marked the FAA’s separate webinar about the agency’s aviation noise research activities, preceded by a call for public comment, published in the Federal Register

What a refreshing rush of transparency and disclosure! Curious that it’s all happening just as a new Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, who now oversees the FAA, is taking the reins.

What the UC Davis conference shows, however, is that the 2018 FAA Re-Authorization Act has both an exciting upside—and a terrifying downside. The upside and the downside were both revealed in back-to-back sessions on Wednesday, February 24.

THE UPSIDE: The morning session revealed that Mathias Basner MD, PhD, MSc, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and president of the International Commission of Biological Effects of Noise*, has been awarded a grant by the FAA

303, 2021

Today is World Hearing Day

March 3rd, 2021|

Photo credit:

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Today, March 3, is World Hearing Day. This special day was set aside many years ago by the World Health Organization to to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote ear and hearing care across the world.

Each year WHO selects a theme. This year’s theme is Hearing Care for All. And in conjunction with World Hearing Day, WHO will release its first World Report on Hearing.

We will let you know more about that after we’ve had a chance to read it.


103, 2021

Bearded seal mating calls drowned out by industrial noise

March 1st, 2021|

Photo credit: foilistpeter licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Bearded seals are a key species in the Alaskan Arctic. The males use loud mating calls to attract females. Even their quiet calls have been likened to a chainsaw, but they have to call loudly enough over their equally noisy brethren to be heard by the female bearded seals they are trying to attract.

As a recent report notes, “Bearded seals – or ugruk in the Inupiaq language – are highly valued by Alaska Native communities in the high Arctic. Since bearded seals are at the center of subsistence and cultural activities in Inupiaq communities, threats to them threaten the communities that rely on them.”

Unfortunately, industrial development in the Arctic is increasing ambient underwater noise levels.

Bearded seals, as with many animals including humans, increase their vocalization volume to overcome increased ambient noise levels. This was described more than a century ago by the French physiologist Etienne Lombard, and it is called the Lombard or “Cocktail Party” Effect. Studies have shown that this adaptation to environmental noise probably evolved 300 million years

2602, 2021

Power tool noise is a safety issue

February 26th, 2021|

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Those who follow my blog posts may recall that I’ve spent much of the pandemic lockdown doing various home repair projects at our house and at my older in-laws’ house. Projects have included restoring a large trellis shade structure, replacing door frames, snaking out clogged outdoor area drains, replacing a ventilation fan, removing old carpet and installing new flooring in two walk-in closets and one small room, making four large planter boxes, replacing several outdoor GFCI outlets involving chipping away stucco, and several painting projects.

Among the power tools I have used are corded and battery powered drills and drivers, saber saws, a multitool, circular saws, a sliding compound miter saw, corded and battery powered reciprocating saws, and small and large shop vacuums. Hand tools can also be noisy. I’ve used hammers of various types, chisels, pry bars, hand saws, clamps, pliers, and screwdrivers.

Before I became a noise activist and learned about the dangers of noise for hearing, I just ignored the momentary discomfort and temporary muffling of sound that came from drilling a hole, cutting a piece of wood, or hammering in a nail. Now, if I’m using any power tool, or any

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