Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The noisy world we live in

From Green-Mom
I've noticed that when I ride the bus in the morning, somewhere around half the people I see have earbuds in their ears, or in some cases are wearing full-sized headphones. I don't know what most of them are listening to, because I can't hear anything. There is the occasional one, however, usually a young person, whose volume is so loud that I can hear the beat of their music and wonder what it sounds like inside their head! Or a car will go by that has the volume turned up so loud that I can feel the sound inside my entire body, even when their windows are closed.

Noise pollution is real, and there's no doubt in my mind that it's getting worse. I live around a mile from Bellingham's International Airport, which has recently added more jet noise. I don't really mind it, and in some ways it's easier to deal with because of its regularity. Train tracks run by somewhere around the same distance away, and during the night I can hear the lonesome sound of a train passing by. If I lived closer to the tracks, I think it would bother me quite a bit, but many people who live nearby say after awhile you don't hear it any more.

When I visited my sister, I was quite taken aback when I attended her yoga class and found that the instructor (young, of course) played music at a fairly loud volume, with singing and a beat included. My massage therapist plays a very soothing, light music during my massage, but this was NOT in the same category at all. Noise pollution is so insidious that it seems most of us has learned to shut out the worst of it. I found this page about noise pollution, what it is and what it does to us. That link goes to the American Tinnitus Association. I don't have tinnitus, but I know lots of people who do: a persistent ringing or other sound in the ear that is the result of damaged hearing.

The event that has reminded me of how easy it is to get accustomed to regular sounds is that of our downstairs neighbors moving out. These are not really big apartments, less than a thousand feet of living space, and they are a young couple with two teenagers and a baby on the way. It wasn't big enough for them, but I was amazed at how loud they were, and how silent it is now. It's almost spooky.

Someone else will move in, and I'm hoping it will be a nice little old lady like me, maybe one who likes to feed the birds and likes it quiet, whose hearing is not so far gone that she needs to turn up the volume too awfully loud. The two of us use headphones when listening to TV alone, so that the other person doesn't feel the need to listen in. But we're rather unusual in this increasingly noisy world. I can always hope for a positive change. I'm feeling hopeful, and a little nervous about what the future holds.


  1. i prefer quiet about 90% of the time. even when i drive, i most often keep the radio off. when i used to commute, it was my 'detox from work' time of solitude. nowadays, i can go a whole day w/o turning on tv or anything. now, don't touch my internet access, though... :)

  2. Wow, I am so like TexWisGirl, who commented above. I love silence, even in the car. David wears headphones when he watches TV, because I rarely watch it and prefer to read. As for environmental noise, I am so glad that our neighbors got rid of their constantly barking dog!!!

  3. I agree that the world can be a noisy place. But it's not only an age-related issue because I've 'always' preferred silence - even as a young person... always needed my time alone. Music can be soothing and comforting and a wonderful asset to our lives, but there is a difference between what some call music and what is actually (IMO) 'noise'.

    The most beautiful music I ever heard was in an old graveyard on Skye in Scotland. The 'silence' of the place was so loud it blew my mind...

  4. Bob & I use earbuds & head phones all the time & have for many years. Being apartment dwellers we have had very little noise the 8 years we've been here, until now. Small children live above us now. Children's feet are very noisy. Thank goodness we aren't hearing that bass sound that goes with loud music. It could be a lot worse. Our little feet people are gone during the day.

  5. I prefer the quiet, although noise does not bother me that much - most of the time it is "whited" out, like white noise. Soothing sounds of classical strings I love to hear in background with a good book, although I also prefer quiet reading. My most fav time is to walk along the river and listen to the sounds of the Eagles, ducks, seagulls, crows, sparrows, doves and other wildlife along the river. I can always hear dogs barking in the distance - there must be a lot of dog owners, for that is part of the "white noise" I've grown accustomed to. I agree with you about the earbuds n head phones, cept mostly here a boot its mostly earbuds and so many people walking with head down busy texting. I watched a fella not so long ago walk right smack dab into a telephone pole while he was texting. I shouldn't have laughed, but I did after I asked him if he was OK. Great Post DJan - thanks a bunch.

  6. ah so true on all the noise in the world...and i wonder if the music is not so loud to block it out...or maybe to keep the silence from encroaching upon us....

    wont lie...i like it loud at times...but also like my silence...

  7. Silence is bliss. I simply love it. That said, I mean the silence which is the absence of manmade noise. I am happy to listen to the birds, to running water when I am near it but much less happy with the sound of leaf blowers, shouted conversation and music which makes my fillings rattle. My partner complains that I have ears like a hawk but I think it is more a case that I am unable to white out sound and so hear far more than I would like.
    That said a card board frige magnet falling down did wake me a while ago...

  8. I get a little more than irritated with most noise. I don't even like the exhaust fan in bathrooms. That is too much noise for me, so you know that your post rings clearly to me...no pun intended.
    I love quiet...lots and lots of quiet.

  9. I adore silence, most of the time. But that's probably because I don't get it often enough.

    But the thing that ticks me off more than anything is being subjected to someone else's music via their car or earbuds. I don't care what you listen to but that doesn't mean *I* want to listen to it.

    Hmph! Glad I got that off my chest! Here's hoping you get a nice, quiet neighbor!

  10. I can tune out noise fairly easily, except in a public space where it's distracting.

  11. I can get annoyed if it is TOO quiet. I know, I'm strange. But I do like to listen to the radio during the day, especially in the mornings. It gives my mind something to do while I am being active.
    When I walk I have upbeat, rather loud music on my iPod. It helps me keep my pace up. We watch a lot of TV in the evenings, and the sound is pretty loud so that I can hear it with my hearing loss, which is hereditary.
    But there times when I want quiet too, like when I'm trying to get to sleep. We are fortunate to not have to worry about neighbor noise when the house is closed up, but during the summer, late night neighbor noise is an issue.
    What I find most distracting in public is people talking cloudy on cell phones.

  12. I am increasingly infuriated by the constant loud background music on tv shows. Turning up the volume to hear the dialogue is fruitless because the music gets louder too and the closed caption option is either laughably inaccurate or lagging way behind. Argh!
    I suppose this will be the natural demise of my tv addiction, as if the content wasn't incentive enough :)

  13. Right on about noise pollution. We tune it out and it does damage our hearing. At my age I find that noises really make it difficult to hear what I am supposed to. We used to get the kids to sit still at the top of a hike and listen. It was very quiet and lots of times they said it was the best part of the hike.

  14. Silence and noise have their respective places, I suspect. Too much of one or the other drives me bonkers.

  15. Holy Crap! I was surprised to see a blow dryer on a close par with a rock concert.

    My hearing is starting to go at certain frequency levels. I can't hear my husband at all. he he.

    On the other hand, I loathe loud noises, TV, kids, etc. I become quite agitated. If I could only find the level at which my husband speaks and apply to all, I'd be a calmer person.

  16. I like noise..the TV is always on when I am home..I like the noise..I don't like the quiet so much. If the power goes out an my TV goes off I wake up because it is silent. I drive many a house guest mad..especially my daughter..she has headphones that she wears when she sleeps here..:)

  17. I just wrote a long comment and when I published it, a message came out that said, "Service Not Available". This is a test message to see if it happens again.

  18. Hmmmmm... It worked. Sheesh!

    Let's see... What was I saying?

    I said something about having to tell our kids constantly when they were young and using ear buds to TURN IT DOWN! I was sure they were getting deaf. The problem these days is that people are too distracted by all that noise they are tuned into. I need my quiet times as does my husband.

  19. Dear DJan, because of Meniere's I am totally deaf in my left ear and so I miss a lot of what's being said in conversations at restaurants because invariably there is music being played over the sound of all the talking.
    Music in elevators, on the phones when we have to wait to talk to a real person, while we sit on the passenger side and the driver--who always has the radio on--listens to music. Is no one comfortable with silence anymore?

    But with regard to loud music, it's the movie theater that is the worse. Sometimes the background sound for the movies is so loud that I must clap my hands over my ears. Peace.

  20. Yes we are getting lots of sounds. One that is very annoying is that of traffic. We are not far from a 6 lane highway and depending on the wind direction it can be a constant loud humming. It also causes vibrations. We fail to think about that.
    That you can watch TV with headphones is amazing to me. I would be upset seeing light flicker from a screen and hearing nothing.
    BP meds are one of the worst for ears ringing :(

  21. I sleep so poorly that any little sound gets to me. What I find is that you can learn to ignore noises that you live with (I'm near Toronto's airport and that doesn't bother me a bit) but try to sleep somewhere else and everything sounds excessive.. the running shower, someone walking past the door, television volume. And then there's my son's guitar. He will surely be a candidate for tinnitus, I fear.

  22. Oh DJan, you have reminded me what it was like to live in the city. We moved here from the Portland/Vancouver area just over a decade ago. Our little airport has only two commercial flights a day, trains are rare and the traffic is light. There are times I can step out on my patio and the only sound will be a bird chirping. I do love small town life.

  23. Some of those people on the bus might be using noise cancelling headsets (e.g. Bose QuietComfort), which can be used to suppress surrounding noises even if you don’t also choose to pipe your own music (or whatever) into the resulting relative silence.

    With so many people deliberately assaulting their own ears with increasingly powerful sources of sound, it might be a great idea to invest in hearing aid manufacturing companies. ;-)

  24. Noise! I'm very sensitive to it. I'm always asking my family to turn down the volume. I wear ear plugs at night to block out all kinds of noise, including my partner's snoring. Enjoy your peace and quiet while it lasts. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that your new neighbor is a quiet one.


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