Photo credit: Daniel Lobo licensed under CC BY 2.0

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

Counter-protesters in New Zealand blasted a playlist of “most hated” songs in attempts to disperse anti-government protesters that set up camp outside Parliament. The protesters disrupted nearby homes, schools, and businesses for days.

The counter-protest playlist includes Barry Manilow, James Blunt, Baby Shark, Macarena, and an out-of-tune recorder rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.”

Protesters have responded by blaring the Twisted Sister song, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

In times like these, we must depend on science. Regular readers will know that Daniel Fink, MD, Board Chair of The Quiet Coalition, introduced an objective definition of noise as harmful acoustic energy, whether the sound is wanted or wanted.

It doesn’t matter whether people like listening to Barry Manilow or Twisted Sister with the volume turned up. If the music is loud enough to interfere with spoken conversations or verbal warnings, it’s a risk to public safety and welfare. If the music is loud enough that people have to raise their voices or shout to be heard, there could be hearing health risks from harmful noise exposure. The Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. first identified noise levels affecting health and welfare back in 1974.

In this case, it seems both sides have caused harmful noise levels. It’s very disturbing that there are children on both sides of the protest lines, and that nearby homes and schools are being impacted. Noise-exposed populations that are considered at higher risk include children, teens, older adults, and anyone with pre-existing tinnitus, hyperacusis, or hearing loss.

Maybe one day governments will consider noise a serious risk to public health, safety, and welfare. Noise action would require protective enforceable public exposure limits.