Take an attentive listen during your public commute home via bus, train, subway, etc. Or, on your next occasion of stepping out into the city street, pause and listen close.
Sometimes, the noises we hear are natural and relatively benign, such as a car whooshing past, or the sound of a person walking alongside of you. The gentle rustling of leaves, birds chirruping, or a train click clacking over tracks.
Frequently though, the noise(s) we live among are growing more substantial and grating. This can include sounds such as (though not limited to): the melody (or more often, jarring blare) of people who nowadays, have decided that because they want to hear a particular song or watch a video, we all do. Thus, blasting it from their phones or even from portable speakers as they walk down the road or worse, sit/stand next to us on the train.
More nagging noises can include cell phones dinging, producing all manner of irritating sounds while people play games or text, all of which is audible and often disturbing.
Colleagues who may sit near to you and play their personal radios aloud, all day long. Or, those who might snap bubble wrap repeatedly, over and over, for a duration of minutes, with little to no regard for how it might grate on others surrounding.
Noise, to a real degree, is an inescapable aspect of life, especially within city living.
However, sometimes these are normal and fairly easy to ignore sounds. Just as frequently though, they are the unnecessary actions (and thus, noise) of others, imposed and pressed upon us. All whether we like it or not.
Not only does all this noise grate on the emotions, as well as take away from a sense of inner peace, it’s harmful to your actual hearing ability over the short and long term.
Kate Wagner cites in her article from The Atlantic (titled “City Noise Might be Making You Sick”) that people living in cities are regularly exposed (against their will) to noise above 85 decibels from sources like traffic, subways, industrial activity, and airports.
Now consider our attendance at sporting events, which have grown to ear splitting degrees, as well as concerts, and even bars- our often having to shout in order to hear our companions over the roar of noise. This commotion has even extended to clothing stores. Volume amplified to deafening degrees in workout classes as well.
All of this is enough to cause significant hearing loss over time.
Even in considering normal commute noise, if you have an hour-long commute every day at such sound levels, your hearing has probably already been affected.
Further, many types of man-made hearing devices result in extreme levels of noise (this information in the short list below is from greenliving.com):
- Household appliances, televisions, electronic cooling fans, vacuum cleaners, and HVAC equipment all contribute to daily noise pollution. ASHA indicates that vacuum cleaners can reach 70 decibels, which is considered very loud, and food processors can reach 80 to 90 decibels.
- The sound of idling bulldozers can reach 85 decibels, according to DD, and people that work around bulldozers can sustain irreversible hearing damage within a single working day.
- Some types of noise pollution are recreational in nature. DD indicates that personal music systems playing at a maximum volume level can exceed sounds of 100 decibels, which can irreversibly damage hearing. Even among people that only listen to music at that level for 15 minutes daily.
All of this noise is equally damaging to the psyche and emotional serenity in each of us. From a study published on the US National Library of Medicine/National Institute of Health, they found: Noise, defined as ‘unwanted sound’ has gradually become increasingly acknowledged as an environmental stressor and nuisance.
Non-auditory effects of noise occur at levels far below those required to damage the hearing organ. Although people tend to ultimately adjust and get used to routine noise exposure, the degree of this adjusting to perpetual surrounding noise differs substantially between individuals and is rarely complete.
Meaning, to some noises, we all generally adapt and adjust. However, everyone has differing response and adjustment to noise, which generally the individual cannot control.
If exposure to noise is chronic and exceeds certain levels, adverse health outcomes can be the result. Numerous studies have shown that perpetual noise contributes to sleep disturbance, to the development of arterial hypertension, ischemic heart disease, heart failure, arrhythmia, metabolic syndrome, and stroke.
And while annoyance is the most prevalent response in a population or person exposed to frequent environmental noise, perpetual and disturbing noise annoyance can result in interference with daily activities, feelings, thoughts, sleep, or rest, and may be accompanied by negative emotional responses, such as irritability, distress, exhaustion, a wish to escape the noise, and other stress-related symptoms.
Severe annoyance has been associated with reduced well-being and health, and because of the high number of people affected, annoyance contributes substantially to the burden of disease. This, resulting from excessive environmental noise.
Thus, this increase in unnatural and outside-of-our-control noise has dire effects, both on our hearing ability, as well as on our emotional and physical well being.
A significant degree of noise is truly out of our control and even natural, over which we cannot do much of anything (aside from wearing ear plugs or moving ourselves to quieter areas).
Noise such as: traffic, train tracks, car horns, thunder storms, the sound of someone walking, papers shuffling, a dog barking, something sizzling in a pan, water running. Many of these noises, we can adjust to and/or brush off, assuming they aren’t at overwhelming levels.
However, much of the noise in our culture, we create, imposing it upon others with little to no consideration or thought, and to ridiculous degrees.
Why? Especially when we realize it tends to annoy, stress out, or even anger the people around us.
To stop contributing to, perpetuating, and causing this especially loud (and ultimately, inconsiderate) cultural climate, we can actively decide to be thoughtful and thus, promote a more peaceful environment for our fellow humans.
How might we do this? Several ways.
— Use headphones. Stop forcing your agenda and narrative on other people. Just because you want to hear it (in the example of blasting ones music from their cell phone for all to hear), do not assume that we all do. We don’t. If you are a thoughtful, polite, and caring human being, this is something you will care about.
— Consider those around you when making noise. Playing a game on your cell phone while riding a crowded train? Why does it need to be set to jarring volume levels, startling and grating on all of us with every ping or ding that sounds with each point you garner. Use headphones, or mute it.
Just because you wish to hear certain noise, does not make it fair to then push that noise on others.
— Keep in mind that many people would like some peace during their rides home from working all day. It’s a polite and kind thing to attune your actions to and respect that idea. If you wish to hear noise, keep it contained to just your ears, as opposed to blaring into all of ours. We do not all need to hear it as well. No headphones? Well, then opt on the side of consideration for others and refrain from playing it until you do have headphones.
— And those loud, “oh my god, seriously? You won’t believe what my stupid colleague did today” or “oh man, I have the craziest story for you,” one-sided conversations we are now so often forced to listen to as someone talks into their cell phone loudly, while standing just beside us? Please, save that for when the other people around you aren’t begrudgingly made to swallow your agenda and yammering, which is being pressed upon them with no choice on their end. This is incredibly rude and obnoxious.
Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher who likens noise to boorishness, said:
There are people, it is true — nay, a great many people — who smile at such [sounds], because they are not sensitive to noise; but they are just the very people who are also not sensitive to argument, or thought, or poetry, or art; in a word, to any kind of intellectual influence.
Folks, let’s put the kibosh on this sense of entitlement and lack of consideration. We can do better. I propose a novel concept. Thought and consideration for those surrounding. And, refraining from certain noise, even if you might wish to hear it, when unable to contain it to your ears only.
This is called being a thoughtful, polite, caring, and considerate human being.
Did you know that research and medical studies have shown that the human brain is at its most productive and active, working at its most efficient and optimal, in the moments between sound? Yes, that’s right. Our brain is at its most effective in moments of pause and quiet.
It is within silence that the brain is in a highly anticipatory state, and thus, at its best.
Thus, silence is great for our brains, emotional well being, and therefore, is truly golden.