Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Whine #5: NOISE, NOISE, and more...


     …..NOISE !*#!*

Noise is more than an annoyance; it’s a health issue. By age 50, 20% of all Americans will have experienced some hearing loss.  Experts attribute this exponential rise to the increasing amount of noise in our environment (known as Noise Induced Hearing Loss –NIHL). Noise also affects our mental and physical well-being.  It can raise blood pressure, cause sleep deprivation, interfere with speech, and lead to a loss of productivity.

One of the greatest producers of NOISE in our culture comes from restaurants. A recent survey by audiologists found that the average restaurant produces levels of noise ranging from 50 and 90 decibels (dB), while many others score between 110 and 140 dB, the same level of noise registered at construction sites.

That's why OSHA mandates that employers initiate hearing conservation programs for all employees working an eight-hour day in an environment above 110 dB.

Fifteen thousand restaurant goers were recently asked in a Zagat survey to list their major restaurant complaints. The second highest was NOISE  (first was service); yet restaurateurs continue to raise the volume, forcing diners to reach shouting levels to hear each other.  Despite a fine meal for the money, I refuse to go to the Texas Roadhouse, where noise registers, on the average, over 160dB.

The only positive by-product of restaurant noise is that cell user-abusers rarely raise a hand or head.  Even they can’t compete with the noise level.  And speaking of cell phones...


...although users do not reach the same high dB levels as other sources of environmental noise, their effect on annoyed bystanders includes: heart palpitations, high anxiety, hostility, frustration, and rising blood pressure.  Cell phone users in medical waiting areas are the worst!  You (or a loved one) has a serious medical issue.  You’re nervous; yet you’re subjected to such mindless babble as Susie Q cutting a new tooth… where so and so had dinner the night before… who’s doing what to whom -- and all of it at high volume!

To add insult to injury, there’s a sign on the wall as you enter the doctors’ office area that reads:

If silence is good for doctors, it should be golden for patients!  I’ve suggested the sign be moved to the waiting area so we can ALL have peace and quiet.  I get laughed at.  No one takes me seriously.  

So what’s a person to do?

Eric from Philadelphia decided he wasn’t going to take it anymore, and one morning aboard his 7:30 public bus to work he “silenced” a user-abuser with a Zapper!  Because Zappers block cell phone signals, they are considered illegal, and Eric now faces time in the slammer for jamming a yammer.  He should have been more furtive and used a smaller, hard-to-detect Zapper, like the pack of Marlboro cigarettes below….

…. or waited for the SpeechJammer to hit the market.  Unlike Zappers, the SpeechJammer does not prevent speech but, first, records it, and then – a millisecond later -- bounces it back at the speaker (called Delayed Auditory Feedback).  This instant feedback is disorienting and usually renders the speaker “speechless.”  Its legality has yet to be challenged.

If this new technology seems too post- modern for you, you might want to advocate for a return to a kinder, gentler time, the era of telephone booths. 

Despite a wide range of phone booth styles, all came equipped with doors and/or soundproofing devices which provided privacy for the speaker and respect for passersby. Alas, respect and privacy are two phenomena in short supply these days. 

Then there’s the offensive and pre-planned attack on the public by Boomcar drivers.  Boomcars are equipped with an audio system that produces sound pressure levels so excessive that they can rattle windows, cause irregular heart palpitations, and lead to hearing loss – not just for the testosterone-pumped driver but innocent bystanders as well.
Municipalities should outlaw Boomcars and issue citations against offenders as well as those who abet this anti-social behavior; namely,audio manufacturers and installers. Not only do they sponsor an annual SoundPressure Level Competition (SPC), they publish inciting, rabble-rousing ads,
such as the ones below: 
            Pioneer Electronics:  "Disturb, defy, disrupt, ignite."
            JBL:  “Either we love bass or hate your neighbors.”
            Concept:  “When TOO loud is just RIGHT.”
            Boss:  “Turn it down? I don’t think so!”
            Crossfire:  “We’re louder. Deal with it!”
            Orion:  “Be loud. Be obnoxious.”
  Sony:  “Disturb the peace.” 

And how about movie noise?  It may not register high in decibels, but it’s way up there on the Annoyance Scale! When a person goes to the movies, he/she expects a quiet environment, a place to relax and concentrate on the story unfolding on the screen; instead, there are countless distractions, like….

… talkers (ignored by management), the texters, whose lighted gadgets flash on and off (ignored by management), and the rattling of cheap paper bags as hundreds of fingers dig for popcorn (encouraged by management). 

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Management could replace all paper bags with light-weight cardboard containers, such as the ones used for larger orders.  These make little or no noise, but they might cost management a bit more money than the cheap paper ones!     


Noise – unnecessary noise – no matter where it’s coming from, is symptomatic of a larger problem: a disregard for the “other.”  This "It’s all about me,” and “if it feels good, do it,” attitude will be our downfall.  When civilities go, so goes civilization.

                 You tell me your whine, I'll tell you mine!



  1. Wow! You struck a nerve here! NOISE hs become the number one reason that I avoid some restaurants! But you did the work...found the data to support the whine, so that makes it a legitimate whine...and makes me feel less bitchy, and a few years younger! Silence is golden, in my book. Loved this post Carol!

  2. Carol, I loved it! thank you! Just let me find a place to eat in peace!!

  3. I am one of the fortunate few who can tune out most noise...even sleep through it. Probably thanks to my snoring husband. However, i can remember when my oldest was born and we used to go to the newly remodeled Wal-Mart in our town. We both hated it! something about the noise level made me anxious, and she would start crying almost as soon as we went in. In fact, the wal-Marts where i live now are also quite loud. As for restaurants, I can handle it, but for my hard-of-hearing husband, its a nightmare! I won't even start on cell phone users....

  4. Live in NYC. Noise has become such a factor, many reviewers identify noise levels and make recommendations accordingly. In other words, if on an outing with individuals you don't really want to have deep conversations with, go to restaurants with an ear-splitting decibel breaking noise level. lolol

    Tweeted and ed to my 5000 followers. You'll see where on my FB pg. Love a return of favor if you get to it. Thanks.

    1. OMG. I am bad. So bad. It is 2016, and I am reading for the first time your wonderful comments on The Bottom Whine. I must try to find you on FB.

    2. OMG. I am bad. So bad. It is 2016, and I am reading for the first time your wonderful comments on The Bottom Whine. I must try to find you on FB.