Quiet Coalition Articles2022-09-26T19:22:33-04:00

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212, 2022

What you need to know about World Hearing Day 2023

December 2nd, 2022|

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

On December 7, the World Health Organization will sponsor a webinar about World Hearing Day 2023. Each year WHO selects a theme for World Hearing Day, which occurs on March 3 every year. This year’s theme is “Ear and hearing care for all! Let’s make it a reality.”

I won’t be able to attend the WHO webinar because I will be presenting two papers at the Acoustical Society of America meeting in Nashville that day. One of the papers is about my main noise interest, preventing auditory damage, not waiting until it has already occurred and then trying to treat it. Auditory damage includes noise-induced hearing loss, but also tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hyperacusis (a sensitivity to loud noise, which may be perceived as painful). Because the exact noise exposure levels causing tinnitus and hyperacusis are not known, I focus on hearing loss.

I prepared what the ASA calls a “lay language paper” about that presentation.

My main point is that the safe noise exposure level to prevent hearing loss isn’t the occupational 85 dBA* noise exposure level. It’s probably not even the Environmental Protection Agency’s calculated 70 decibel level for

112, 2022

Hearing birds makes us feel better

December 1st, 2022|

Photo credit: David Cossey

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

During the pandemic, I wrote a number of posts on articles that noted how pleased many people were to hear the birds in their neighborhoods, especially residents of New York City who generally hear aircraft noise rather than the pleasant singing of birds. Now we have an article by Mary Jo DiLonardo that cites a study that found “being around birds offers benefits for emotional well-being that can last as long as eight hours.” This article also refers readers to earlier articles that have examined the benefits of being around nature.

The authors of the study used an app to query subjects in the UK, the European Union and the U.S. about whether they could see or hear birds. Then the subjects were asked about their mental state during the time they heard or saw birds. Subjects in this study included people who were diagnosed with adverse mental health conditions and those who were not. The finding was that bird activity was linked to improvement in mental health for both groups.

The researchers of the study believe their findings

3011, 2022

Building a library of obsolete sounds

November 30th, 2022|

Photo credit: Dzenina Lukac

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Cities and Memory has announced the launch of Obsolete Sounds, the biggest-ever collection of obsolete and disappearing sounds of the world.

As Cities and Memory notes, “[o]bsolete Sounds is designed to draw attention to the world’s disappearing soundscapes, to highlight those sounds that are worth preserving because they form part of our collective cultural heritage–and to help us think about how to save those sounds before it’s too late.”

Among the sounds I remember from my childhood are the clicking of manual typewriters, the rattle of coal sliding down a chute to a neighbor’s basement coal bin, the cries of street vendors announcing their arrival, the buzz of propeller planes flying overhead to Newark Airport–long before it became Newark Liberty International Airport–and the ringing of rotary phones, now preserved only as a ring tone option on digital phones.

I’m glad someone is capturing and preserving these lost sounds. Some of them are so iconic, they have even been put to music:

2911, 2022

Enjoy the holiday break

November 29th, 2022|

Photo credit:

We are taking the week off. Have a peaceful and joyous holiday.

See you on January 3rd!

2911, 2022

A gift idea for the holidays: hearing protection devices

November 29th, 2022|

Photo credit: Kasra Askari

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The idea for this blog post came from the juxtaposition of a recent family wedding where the music after dinner was far too loud, and the Black Friday sales starting the holiday shopping season.

At the wedding, I was the only one wearing earplugs. It was noisy enough that some wedding guests had stepped outside in the cool night to be able to talk to other guests they hadn’t seen in a while. A family member who had the iWatch sound warnings set up showed me that the sound level was at 94 decibels. I pointed to my earplugs and said, “that’s why I have my earplugs in.”

Just now, this thought popped into my head as I began to ponder what to get friends and family who really don’t need anything more to clutter their lives–why not get them earplugs?

In much of Los Angeles, and probably similar middle class or wealthier neighborhoods nationwide, no one really needs much of anything, anyway. The seasonal gift giving is reminiscent of the potlatch ceremonies of the Pacific Northwest First Nations.

Besides, if friends and family want something really nice, I probably can’t

2811, 2022

Aviation noise–let’s talk about what can be done

November 28th, 2022|

Photo credit: 周 康

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The European Union Against Aircraft Nuisances (UECNA) is sponsoring another webinar about aviation noise, this time a conversation between panelists and participants. I won’t be able to attend because I will be attending the Acoustical Society of America meeting, at which I will be presenting three papers.

The ASA requested that I prepare what it calls a Lay Language Paper about my aviation noise presentation. My paper, “The FAA allows Americans to be exposed to unsafe levels of aircraft noise,” has been posted and is available to the public. I intend to submit a manuscript based on my presentation for publication in Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics.

At least the European Community and the World Health Organization accept the fact that aviation noise is a health hazard. The Federal Aviation Administration still thinks more research needs to be done.

2311, 2022

Five ways to get high noise level alerts on your smartphone

November 23rd, 2022|

Photo credit: PhotoMIX Company

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article on GadgetsToUse discusses how to get high noise level alerts on a smartphone. It turns out that there are several ways to do this, whether you have an iPhone or an Android. And of course, the Apple iWatch has a noise alert feature, for those with iWatches.

But you really don’t need to change settings or install an app on whatever device you have. Just remember this simple rule:

If something sounds loud, it’s too loud, and your auditory health is at risk.

Turn down the volume, leave the noisy environment, or use hearing protection.

If you do that, your ears should last you a lifetime.

2211, 2022

Rep. Beyer’s airplane noise act passed

November 22nd, 2022|

Photo credit: Alex Azabache

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

This article tells us that Representative Dan Beyer’s Cleaner, Quieter Airplanes Act was included in a larger Act that President Biden signed into law. The larger Act, called the CHIPS and Science Act, aims to increase energy independence and improve energy affordability. Representative Beyer recognizes that aviation emissions have to be tackled as part of the country’s efforts to deal with the climate crisis, saying that technology must be developed that makes flights quieter as well as cleaner.

The legislation aims to set a goal for cleaner, quieter aircraft as part of NASA’s aeronautics efforts to reduce “greenhouse gas and noise emissions.” The legislation, we learn, sets a goal for commercial aircraft to lower their greenhouse gas emission by fifty per cent compared to the “highest performing aircraft in 2021.” An additional goal – net zero emissions by 2050.

With respect to noise reduction, Beyer’s bill asks NASA to “accelerate its work on electrified propulsion systems” and to employ further technologies and airframe concepts to lessen noise. Then NASA will provide the data from their work to the Federal

2111, 2022

What can you do about big city noise pollution?

November 21st, 2022|

Photo credit: Jose Francisco Fernandez Saura

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article onVurb Wellness discusses what you can do about noise pollution. Unsurprisngly, the Quiet Coalition’s Arline Bronzaft, PhD, is cited in the first sentence of the article.

The article makes several suggestions, but I would add one more: become a noise activist and work at making your city or town a quieter place. Get to know your local elected representatives. Educate them and their office staff about the dangers of noise. Pester them–politely, of course–to enforce existing noise ordinances, especially those regulating noise from businesses and local and state laws governing vehicle exhaust noise. If there are existing laws about the use of gas-powered leaf blowers, ask that those be enforced. If there aren’t, ask that such laws be passed, as activists did in Washington, D.C.

Modern urban life is noisy, but it can be made quieter without much adverse impact on commerce, transportation, or daily life.

And a quieter city or town will be a healthier place for all.

 

1811, 2022

More than 1 billion young people at risk of hearing loss

November 18th, 2022|

Photo credit: cottonbro studio

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

A new study confirms what the World Health Organization has been saying for some years now: more than 1 billion young people could be at risk of noise-induced hearing loss because of personal listening device use and going to noisy clubs and rock concerts.

The numbers must be even greater than 1 billion, because the researchers used the industrial-strength 85 decibel (dB) noise exposure level to establish if young people were at risk of developing NIHL. 85 dB is not a safe noise exposure level, but is based on the 85 dBA (A-weighted*) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommended exposure level for noise. That noise exposure level won’t prevent hearing loss in factory workers, and it certainly isn’t a safe noise exposure level for the public.

The International Telecommunications Union recommends lower noise exposure for sensitive listeners, a category including younger people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses 70 dB as a safe noise level. That’s the average for 24 hour exposure but it is the only evidence-based safe noise exposure level that I have been able to find.

That’s also what the World

1711, 2022

Urban planners and the regulation of sound in our cities

November 17th, 2022|

Photo credit: Riccardo

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

Now that the soundscapes have for the most part returned to pre-pandemic form, Rob Walker, writing for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, wonders if the quiet that many could tune into during the pandemic could serve as a reminder to urban planners and policy makers that they can have some control over the audible sounds in our lives. He quotes Inger Anderson of the United Nations Environment Programme who says that “city planners should take both the health and environmental risks of noise pollution into account.”

Walker believes that we are at a point where we can think more constructively about our “built soundscapes” because we now have tools available that can allow better design and policy strategies to deal with noise pollution. He adds that noise pollution is indeed hazardous to our health and well-being.

First noted in this article are tools that can more readily measure sound in our environment such as sound cameras that can photograph license plates of vehicles speeding through our streets. This article also tells us about an app that was used in

1611, 2022

WYPR reports on BWI airport noise study

November 16th, 2022|

Photo credit: Craig James licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Public Broadcasting System provides an important news source for many communities, including the Baltimore, Maryland metropolitan area. Last month, WYPR broadcast this piece about a report prepared by faculty at the University of Maryland.

The report forecast an added medical cost burden of $800 million over the next 30 years for people living near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport or under its flight paths.

One of the reports authors, Zafar Zafari PhD, said “The monetary estimates for these costs include direct medical costs of these conditions, like pharmacy, outpatient visits, doctor visits, emergency room visits and hospitalizations,” said Zafari. “Then we also included indirect costs, which includes loss of productivity because of these morbidities.”

The WYPR piece mentions the Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen program, which is making air travel safer and more efficient by spacing airplanes more closely along specified flight paths, but NextGen has the unintended consequence of exposing those living under fight paths to concentrated aviation noise. This means sleep deprivation, disturbance of activity, non-auditory health effects of transportation noise such as

1511, 2022

Difficulty hearing in a noisy space linked to dementia

November 15th, 2022|

Photo credit: Helena Lopes

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

There has been more focus on the importance of hearing lately as evidenced by how much easier it is to get hearing aids. Those of us who have written about sound and noise for many years have long understood the importance of hearing, and we do not take our hearing for granted. Clare Watson, writing for ScienceAlert, tells readers to notice changes in their hearing because such changes may “be linked to developing dementia at an older age.”

The study cited in Watson’s article looked at 80,000 adults over the age of 60 and found that those who had difficulty hearing speech in noisy environments had “a greater risk of dementia.” A hearing problem may not be a symptom of dementia but a risk factor as well.

Watson goes on to report that hearing loss not attended to when first noted increases one’s risk to develop dementia. The study, in which subjects were followed for 11 years, found that those with worse hearing “had almost double the risk of developing dementia” when compared to subjects with good hearing. Interestingly,

1411, 2022

14th ICBEN Congress on noise as a public health problem

November 14th, 2022|

Photo credit: Dennis Jarvis licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The first Congress of the International Commission on Biological Effects of Noise was held in 1973, so this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of that first meeting. I presented at the 12th Congress in Zurich and at last year’s e-Congress via Zoom, but plan to submit at least one abstract for this Congress. If an abstract is accepted, I plan to attend.

There’s an old saying, “every coin has two sides,” meaning there’s good and bad about almost everything. The advantage of a Zoom meeting is that you can “attend” the meeting in one’s pajamas or sweatpants without the expense and hassle of travel. The registration fees are usually lower. The disadvantage is that you don’t get to meet experts from around the world in person, and it’s harder to pay attention with all the usual distractions of home. As readers probably know, much of the important work of meetings takes place at coffee breaks, meals, or in the bars afterwards.

The 2023 meeting is in the historic European city of Belgrade. We hope you

1111, 2022

Experts suggest how and why to reduce noise at home

November 11th, 2022|

Photo credit: Karl Solano

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Quiet Coalition’s Jamie Banks, PhD, MSc, who is also founder and president of TQC’s parent organization, Quiet Communities, Inc. https://quietcommunities.org is one of the experts quoted in this article by Forbes magazine contributor Jamie Gold, who writes about wellness design and home trends. As Dr. Banks says, “[l]oud noise and even low levels of chronic noise can damage hearing [and] the damage cannot be reversed.“

Dr. Banks goes on to point out that noise has non-auditory health impacts also, saying:

The effects that are not so intuitive are those affecting our heart and circulatory system, our metabolism and endocrine system, and our mental state. For example, noise can disturb our sleep, and cause stress and annoyance. In response, the body releases stress hormones and neurotransmitters that set off a chain of events resulting in damage to the blood vessels, which in turn cause or contribute to conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and even ischemic heart disease.

Dallas-area interior designer Shelly Rosenberg also notes that noise can be especially problematic for those with autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, and military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Gold goes on to

1011, 2022

Draft agreement between FAA, helicopter tours threatens Liberty State Park

November 10th, 2022|

Photo credit: Robert So

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

That helicopter noise has disrupted the lives of many residents in New York and New Jersey has been underscored by the activities of Stop the Chop NY/NJ, an organization that we have written about frequently. Now we learn from Mark Koosau, Hudson Reporter, that a federal draft plan by the National Park Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, and tour operators would permit air tours around the Statue of Liberty and Governor’s Island, which the organizers claim will have limits that should not impose aviation noise. That draft plan is being challenged by the Friends of Liberty State Park, who argue that it will result in helicopters flying over the park.

The Friends of Liberty State Park state that “[p]eople deserve to enjoy Liberty State Park without the private interests of the helicopter companies disrupting and disturbing the peace at Liberty State Park.” But the FAA plans to sign the agreement for these helicopter tours by December.

Koosau writes that public comments can be submitted regarding this draft plan and lists the site to which these comments can be

911, 2022

What musicians need to know about ear protection

November 9th, 2022|

Photo credit: Ludwig Kwan

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

That’s the title of this piece by freelance writer Madeleine Burry on HealthyHearing.com, which appears to be sponsored by the Oticon hearing aid company.

I might change the title to “What the public needs to know about hearing protection,” and use a lower noise exposure threshold at which to begin using hearing protection devices.

Burry quotes audiologist Moira Daley Bell, Aud.D, as saying, “[h]earing protection is recommended anytime one’s environment exceeds 80 dBA” (A-weighted decibels*). At least Bell doesn’t parrot the American Speech-Hearing-Language Association’s inaccurate statement, “[s]ounds at 85 dBA can lead to hearing loss if you listen to them for more than 8 hours at a time.” 85 dBA is the occupational noise exposure standard that doesn’t prevent hearing loss in workers, let alone the general public!

I’d rely more on the CDC than Dr. Bell or ASHA. The CDC states that “[n]oise above 70 dB over a prolonged period of time may start to damage your hearing.”  Seventy dB for a day is the only evidence-based safe noise level to prevent hearing loss that I have been able to find.

Perhaps the most important things to

811, 2022

North Somerset Aims to be the UK’s first “low noise firework county”

November 8th, 2022|

Photo credit: Belinda Schindler

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Amid growing evidence that fireworks severely stress wild animals and pets, a pet owner in North Somerset is trying to make her county the UK’s first “low noise firework county.” According to Somerset Live, Lorraine Hopkinson-Parker from Backwell set up the petition after her friend’s horse tragically died, with vets saying it had suffered stress attributed to the noise of fireworks.

Hopkinson-Parker also commented, “[m]y youngest son who is 13, despises fireworks, because he can see first hand, the terror they inflict on our dogs.”

Noise in general, including that from fireworks, can be an added stress for people with autism spectrum disorder or those with post-traumatic stress disorder, especially among combat veterans.

Alternatives to traditional fireworks include low noise fireworks, laser displays, and drone displays.

We hope Hopkinson-Parker is successful, and that similar efforts spread to other counties and other countries around the world.

711, 2022

How to prevent hearing loss while wearing headphones?

November 7th, 2022|

Photo credit: Sound On

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The title of the Health Digest article is “How to prevent hearing loss while wearing headphones” without the question mark.

I had to add the question mark, though, because trying to prevent hearing loss while wearing headphones is like trying to prevent lung cancer or cardiovascular disease while smoking a cigarette. It’s just impossible.

Most people don’t know that while smoking one cigarette is unlikely to cause cancer, even one cigarette dramatically increases the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Similarly, a one-time use of headphones or earbuds probably won’t cause auditory damage, but if you are a regular listener, auditory damage is probably inevitable.

Here’s why: To be able to hear the music you want to listen to, or to understand the words of a podcast or audiobook, whether using headphones or earbuds, you have to turn up the volume enough to overcome ambient noise. Unless you are listening in a quiet room, and perhaps even then, that means the volume has to be above 80 decibels, and probably higher. And that’s probably sufficient to cause auditory damage.

A study of Dutch children ages 9-11, done not to study hearing specifically

311, 2022

Americans can now buy hearing aids over the counter

November 3rd, 2022|

Photo credit: Nicolas Sadoc licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

From October 17, Americans can now buy hearing aids without seeing an audiologist, otolaryngologist, or hearing aid dispenser. Five years after Congress passed a bill authorizing over-the-counter sales of hearing aids, federal regulations allowing the sale of the devices went into effect. They will be available at drugstores and retail outlets like Best Buy and Walmart.

Some analysts and experts hold out great promise for OTC hearing aids, stating that these more affordable hearing aids will allow people who can’t afford traditional hearing aids to afford them.

I am much less sanguine.

First, the prices of the top-rated OTC hearing aids aren’t cheap. Some cost only $300, but The New York Times Wirecutter site’s top-rated choices range from $1,500 to almost $3,000 for a pair. For older Americans who are more likely than younger people to need hearing aids, that may be too much money. Many retirees rely only on Social Security for their income, with the average Social Security benefit being less than $20,000 annually.

Second, perhaps more importantly, choosing a hearing aid isn’t as simple as

211, 2022

No simple solutions for a complex problem

November 2nd, 2022|

Photo credit: Q K from Pixabay

by Jeanine Botta, MPH, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

When a reader sent a question about sound to The Conversation’s Curious Kids column, editors turned to environmental epidemiologist Erica D. Walker, PhD, to serve as an expert. Ten-year-old Joseph of Chatham, New Jersey, asked, “If all the vehicles in the world were to convert to electric, would it be quieter?”

Walker, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Brown University, developer of the NoiseScore smartphone app, and a Quiet Communities Scientific Advisory Council member, responded that the world might sound different under certain conditions but there was no guarantee it would be quieter.

There are differences in sound levels among electric, hybrid, and internal combustion engine, or ICE, vehicles under different circumstances. At highway speeds, where tire and road surface noise contribute to overall sound levels, differences are not significant. Today’s ICE cars are significantly quieter than ICE cars manufactured 30 years ago–less than 20% as noisy according to one estimate. At the same time, efforts over many decades to reduce tire and road surface noise have reduced sound levels at higher speeds.

Electric vehicles traveling at 30 mph or less would create significantly lower sound

3110, 2022

Scientists identify proteins that restore hearing

October 31st, 2022|

Photo credit: Oregon State University licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health have identified a unique set of proteins that restore hearing. Unfortunately, the proteins were discovered only in zebrafish, not in humans, so whether the research will eventually lead to a cure for noise-induced hearing loss in humans is something that is a long way off.

Humans are born with 16-20,000 hair cells in the cochlea, the part of the inner ear buried deep within the skull’s temporal bone.

When sound waves are transmitted through the ear to the hair cells, they are deformed. The deformation is transformed into electrical impulses transmitted through the auditory nervous system to the brain, where they are in turn perceived as sound.

Excessive noise exposure damages and eventually kills hair cells, leading to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). NIHL is very common in adults. Research done by the CDC found that about 25% of American adults age 20-69 had NIHL, more than half without any significant occupational noise exposure. This isn’t surprising. As I wrote last year, noise exposure in everyday

2110, 2022

New England Botanic Garden 1st to receive AGZA Green Zone® certification

October 21st, 2022|

Photo credit: Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill, a nationally recognized botanic garden, will be the first botanic garden in the nation to receive American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA) Green Zone® certification. The Garden is owned and operated by the Worcester County Horticultural Society, the third oldest horticultural society in the nation. Achieving Green Zone status signals New England Botanic Garden’s ongoing commitment to sustainable practices that support a healthy environment and help combat climate change.

AGZA, a global leader in transitioning land care to low impact practices, and Quiet Communities collaborated in assisting Tower Hill with a transition from fossil fuel powered equipment to battery electric equipment used in maintenance of the garden. An AGZA Certified Green Zone is one in which routine maintenance is performed with low impact equipment, helping to reduce noise, emissions, fuel spillage, and toxic waste while saving money from avoided fuel and reduced maintenance.

For our readers in New England, a celebration of the Tower Hill Green Zone will

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