Sound pollution has become a serious area of study with environmental engineers. Although I live in a relatively quiet neighborhood, I was blessed with extreme quietness while spending time in the boundary waters in Northern Minn. last summer. All I heard was lapping water, the occasional loon and other birds, and the wind, ie, the ‘real’ world. Coming back into the created cacophony world was like sticking my head in New York’s Lincoln Tunnel!
According to Donna S. Wayner, Ph.D., an audiologist and author of several books on hearing loss, “People tell me that a certain level of sound used to bother them but they got used to it. In reality they have reduced the efficiency of their hearing, and in time, the problem will spread. Typically, hearing loss is painless, so we think we’re not vulnerable,” says Dr. Wayner. “It’s not like one day you can hear and the next day you can’t. It’s all cumulative.” Experts say one in 10 Americans has a hearing loss that affects the ability to understand speech. Deciphering consonants at the ends of sentences may be especially difficult.
And it doesn’t take a thunderous rock concert to cause hearing loss. Any repeated high-volume experiences or one-shot booms can damage the delicate nerve cells of your inner ear. And once damaged, these cells do not grow back. A good rule of thumb is that damage is occurring if you have to shout to be heard over the racket.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, a power lawn mower, a leaf blower, and a chainsaw all produce sound at 130 decibels, enough to damage hearing. Prolonged use of hair dryers, shrill kids toys, guns and rifles, jackhammers, loud music, theater sound effects, and jets taking off can contribute to slow hearing loss, aside from increasing our stress levels.
Paying attention to what sounds are in your environment can have huge payoffs. Want to be able to focus better, decrease anxiety and stress, create a peaceful environment, have healthier plants, animals and kids? When we become more tuned into what our ears are hearing we can choose to play ‘healthy’ sounds. I can’t tell you how many times I have asked restaurant wait staff to either change the music being played or turn it off. If more people requested this, restaurants might begin to pay more attention, though, Hard Rock Cafes are at least honest in their advertising!
Don’t forget your pets in your playlists; they are directly affected by the type of music played, just like us.