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

To live with the rare hearing condition, hyperacusis, a disorder that makes it more difficult for the person to deal with every day sounds, forces the individual to plan a life in a way that would expose that person to fewer of these offensive sounds. Dan Latu, WHYY PBS, introduces us to Jared Cocken who suffers from hyperacusis and who plans “his life in New York City around sound.” For example, Cocken arrives at work earlier so that he can enjoy some quiet time in his office, and during his walks in the city he avoids the noisiest streets.

Then came the pandemic and now Cocken was faced with a different New York City “soundwise.” He, like so many of us, was concerned about “the threat and devastation of COVID.” Yet, as I have written in earlier blogs on this site, we, like Cocken, savored the silence. As Latu notes, “Americans of all hearing abilities lived through the same pandemic noise drop.” Latu then wonders if this quiet time has served as a “wake up call to how loud life can be.”

Latu’s article goes on to inform readers about the harmful effects of noise to our health and cites Monica Hammer, an environmental attorney, who rightfully says that “America is waiting too long to act on noise.” Hammer, like others who advocate for quieter cities, informs readers of some ways that urban centers can lessen noise, e.g. quieter garbage trucks and ambulances with lower level sound alerts.

This article ends with Latu wondering whether the lesson we learned by experiencing quieter days in our lives during the earlier time of the pandemic might cause us to question the loudness of the sounds that we now hear. I will add to that thought: let’s hope the questioning will be followed by advocacy for a less noisy, quieter environment.