Rock and roll ain’t noise pollution – at least not according to AC/DC.
I beg to differ. I think anything that’s too loud is aurally contaminating. I don’t care how good the groove is; whatever it is can be listened to at a reasonable volume. You kids get the hell off my lawn.
Personally, I’ve always had a problem with loud noises. The TTC at Union Station is one of my pet peeves. Doesn’t anyone else hear that infernal screeching?
And don’t even get me started on the goddamn bar next door to my house. I hate shopping, too, with stores trying to drown my consumer smarts with blasts of music.
Experts all agree that high decibel levels are a major cause of stress and really bad for your precious ears, which take a daily beating from iPods, bars, concerts and the overall urban cacophony. Like, are we all getting louder?
What the experts say
“One type of noise damage is what we call a temporary threshold shift, which a lot of people will experience at a concert. Afterwards, sound is muffled and there’s a buzzing or ringing, but next day things go back to normal. There is damage, but the ear recovers as long as there’s a rest period. Over time, if you have enough of those exposures, you’ll end up with permanent induced hearing loss. Genetics plays a role in your susceptibility to noise. And women tend to prefer things a little bit quieter. At 100 decibels, the maximum exposure time is about 15 minutes. iPods can reach that level, as do many rock concerts. If you’re standing next to someone and you have to shout for them to hear you, it’s excessively loud.”
M.J. DeSOUSA, chief audiologist, Listen Up! Canada
“Noise damages hearing, disturbs communication, disrupts sleep, impairs cardiovascular function, reduces productivity, provokes unwanted behaviours and increases accidents. Noise is the step-child of the ecology movement. We worry about plastic bags, litter, air pollution from motor vehicles and factories, but we don’t worry about noise. It’s everywhere, and it’s increasing, getting worse year by year. At some point we’re going to be overwhelmed by it, if we’re not already.”
LOUIS HAGLER, MD, consultant to the World Health Organization, Oakland, California
“Noise triggers our fight-or-flight response. It gives us a shot of adrenalin. Research shows that people are less civil and less generous to others in noisy environments. Noise is like litter – it’s audible trash. Volitional noise, is noise imposed on others, like when a rider takes the muffler off his motorcycle or drivers put 300-amp stereo systems in their cars. It announces it’s coming down the road with a vibration that reaches your chest. These people are saying, ‘Here I am. You can’t do anything about it.’ This is adolescent behaviour. The job of adolescents is to establish themselves in the world, but some people don’t outgrow that. It represents a breakdown in the concept of civility.”
LES BLOMBERG, director, Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, Montpelier, Vermont
“Noise can affect your heart, stomach and any of the organs called into play when you have an emotional response like anger or distress. The best evidence we have is that sustained stress due to noise exposure may affect the cardiovascular system. I did a landmark study 35 years ago of children in a school where the teacher had to compete to be heard over trains, comparing their reading scores to children on the quiet side. By the sixth grade, [pupils in the noisy area] were a year behind in reading. Changes were made that lowered the decibel level, and when we went back later, the children were reading at the same level. When people call to complain about noise and nothing gets done, they develop a learned helplessness. This means they never complain any more. Noise diminishes your quality of life.”
ARLINE BRONZAFT, chair of the noise committee, Council on the Environment of New York City
“Music in stores is a merchandising tool, meaning that if I find the music at Abercrombie & Fitch annoying, it’s probably because I don’t belong there. Playing music is often a way of excluding or including somebody. It’s one way of making a physical environment comfortable to a section of shoppers.”
PACO UNDERHILL, CEO, Envirosell, New York City