439. Please Get Your Noise Out of My Ears

    en-usNovember 12, 2020

    Podcast Summary

    • The Impact of Human Noise on Marine LifeHuman activity has introduced a lot of noise pollution into the ocean, affecting the many organisms that rely on sound to communicate and navigate. Acoustic enrichment can help restore degraded coral reefs, and research on ocean sounds can aid in preserving marine ecosystems.

      Human industrial activities have introduced a lot of noise that affects the sounds that we and other organisms have evolved with. Life underwater differs from life on land, as sound travels much further in the ocean than vision. Acoustic enrichment can act as a tool for managing degraded coral reefs. Shipping noise globally affects marine life, and when the ships stopped after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, researchers found that the absence of shipping noise caused a drop in stress hormones in whales. Research on sound in the ocean will benefit in understanding the impact on marine ecosystems and their preservation.

    • The Impact of Noise Pollution on Whales and HumansNoise pollution, even at low levels, can have significant impacts on both beaked whales and human well-being. It's important to control background noise and limit exposure when possible to protect mental health.

      Whales, particularly beaked whales, can be greatly impacted by noise pollution, even at low levels. Their anti-predator instincts can cause panic, leading to stranding and even death. While humans may not be as sensitive to sound as whales, we must still consider our responses to constant background noise. Normal sounds we barely notice can have a significant impact on our well-being. As the pandemic rearranges our soundscapes, it's important to control background noise and consider the impact on our mental health. Not all noise is physically harmful, but we must pay attention to our baseline and limit exposure when possible.

    • The Economics of Noise: Challenges and Solutions for Modern TimesBe mindful of the impact of noise on yourself and others, and prioritize respecting boundaries to reduce negative effects on health and wellbeing.

      The economics of noise is a growing concern in modern times, as the sound has become more widespread and diversified, negatively impacting people's health and wellbeing. Sound doesn't respect barriers, and noise is susceptible to a race to the bottom, leading to people suffering from it. While some people seek out sounds that trigger a tingly feeling, many sounds are thrust upon us, leading to new medical diagnoses that never existed before. Seneca and Schopenhauer's disdain for noise in ancient Rome and 19th-century Germany, respectively, highlight the longstanding concern over sound's impact, which has only grown louder in contemporary times. To manage sound better, respecting each other's boundaries is key.

    • Understanding Misophonia: Heightened Sensitivity to SoundsMisophonia is a condition where certain sounds can cause extreme distress and discomfort. The Jastreboffs have found that it is often associated with negative events and have developed ways to treat it, offering hope for those who suffer from it.

      Misophonia is a newly identified condition characterized by a negative reaction to specific sounds in specific situations. Patients with misophonia have a heightened sensitivity to certain sounds that can cause extreme distress, such as the sound of chewing. The Jastreboffs, medical-school professors at Emory University and founders of the Jastreboff Hearing Disorders Foundation Clinic, have proposed that misophonia reflects subconscious connections with unhappy events that become subconsciously associated with everyday sounds, generating automatic physiological responses. The Jastreboffs have drawn on methods to treat patients with tinnitus for misophonia, with promising results. Understanding misophonia could lead to better diagnosis and treatment options for those who suffer from this condition.

    • Understanding and Managing Tinnitus with Tinnitus Retraining TherapyTinnitus Retraining Therapy combines psychotherapy and sound therapy to manage the condition of perceiving sounds that aren't there. Understanding the subjective nature of noise and finding methods to mask it can be helpful in managing noise sensitivity.

      Tinnitus is the perception of sound that is not created by hearing and can generate strong emotional responses. Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (T.R.T) uses a combination of psychotherapy and sound therapy to manage this condition. Noise appreciation is a subjective sliding scale, and the definition of 'noise' is often debated in the field of sound studies. The reshaping of senses by history and technology has changed how we define noise and evaluate sounds. The ability to concentrate has become a survival mechanism, and noise has become a big problem. Garbage trucks, sirens, and car alarms are commonly hated sounds. Noise sensitivity can be managed by understanding its subjective nature and finding methods to mask it.

    • The Power of Noise: Benefits and DownsidesNoise can be beneficial, but it can also have negative effects on our well-being. It is important to be aware of the downsides of uncontrollable noise and take steps to lessen noise levels in our lives while utilizing sounds and noise for positive outcomes.

      When a noise bothers us, it is usually not the sound waves themselves, but what they represent or fail to represent. One-sided conversations, like cell-phone halfalogues, are more annoying because our brain compulsively fills in missing information. However, there are benefits to noise, such as music, conversations, and using sound for the benefit of our species. Still, it is important to be aware of the downsides of noise that we cannot control, as research has shown negative cognitive and physical effects from airport, highway, and subway noise. We should take steps to lessen noise levels in our lives and appreciate the strategic use of sound and noise for positive outcomes.

    • The Impact of Noise Pollution on LearningNoise pollution can negatively affect a child's learning. Acoustic ceilings and noise reduction procedures can improve classroom learning outcomes and create a better educational experience for students.

      Noise pollution can have a severe impact on learning and educational outcomes, as shown by Bronzaft's study on the effects of transit noise on students at P.S. 98 in Upper Manhattan. The study found that children exposed to transit noise were almost a year behind in reading by sixth grade when compared to their peers in quieter classrooms. However, effective solutions exist. Bronzaft was able to successfully advocate for acoustical ceilings in the classroom and to persuade the transit authority to test a new procedure to quiet the noise on the tracks. These interventions resulted in quiet classrooms, equitable learning outcomes, and improved educational experiences for students.

    • The Harmful Effects of Noise Pollution on Human HealthNoise pollution can disrupt sleep, cause learned helplessness, and lead to negative health effects. Advocating for policies that prioritize human health is crucial to mitigate these impacts.

      Noise is a psychological phenomenon that can disturb our sleep, cause learned helplessness, and ultimately have negative health effects. While companies producing noise have the upper hand, the costs of medical care and education for those affected by noise pollution are significant. Low-frequency bass sounds, like those from wind turbines, are increasingly becoming an issue and have been regulated based on mid-range frequencies, despite the fact that these sounds are perceived differently. Overall, understanding the physical and psychological effects of noise pollution is crucial for advocating for policies that prioritize human health and well-being.

    • The Economic Impact of Noise Pollution on SocietyNoise pollution can have a significant impact on productivity, making it important for businesses and policy-makers to address. Despite little research on the overall costs, using productivity as a measure can help persuade decision-makers.

      Despite the growing concern among citizens living with turbines, there is little research on the overall societal costs of noise pollution from an economic standpoint. While psychologists have used noise in laboratory experiments, economists have yet to calculate the costs of noise pollution and its impacts on economic outcomes. Assistant Professor Josh Dean, who researched the link between noise and productivity, found that productivity is an easily measurable and quantifiable outcome, as well as an easier tool to persuade decision-makers to care about the problem. While there is still much to uncover in the economics literature on noise pollution, Dean's research suggests that noise has a significant impact on productivity, making it a crucial consideration for businesses and policy-makers alike.

    • The Impact of Noise on Productivity: Understanding the Mechanism and Policy ResponseNoise can negatively affect productivity by reducing attention, working memory, and effort. Adapting to noise and mitigating it through policy or technology can improve productivity.

      Noise can greatly impact productivity and there is a need for more robust evidence to understand the underlying mechanism. The impact of noise on workers could be inhibiting attention or working memory or reducing their effort due to discomfort. It is important to understand this mechanism to determine the appropriate policy response. In addition, workers' ability to adapt to noise should be considered when assessing the impact of noise. Modern civilization has shown a strong interest in mitigating noise, as evidenced by the popularity of noise-cancelling headphones. A study conducted in Kenya exposed manual laborers to engine noise to understand the impact of noise on productivity. The results showed that noise significantly reduced productivity.

    • The Impact of Noise Levels on Workplace ProductivityNoise, even at modest levels, can significantly decrease productivity in the workplace, affecting all employees regardless of skill level. Managing noise levels can be crucial for maintaining optimal productivity levels.

      In a study on textile workers, a room that feels twice as loud resulted in a 5% decrease in productivity, which was a medium-sized effect compared to other means of affecting productivity. This suggests that noise is an economically meaningful environmental input. Interestingly, distractions from noise seemed to affect all workers similarly, regardless of skill level. Decibels are tricky to interpret, with a 10-decibel change perceived as twice as loud by humans, but the analogy of going from a dishwasher to a vacuum cleaner helps put it in perspective. Doubling payment from 5 to 10 shillings per pocket only increased productivity by 3%, indicating that managing noise levels is an important factor in workplace productivity.

    • The Impact of Noise on Productivity and Its ManagementNoise can significantly affect our attention and working memory, especially in open offices. Tasks that require focus are more vulnerable. Noise pollution is a problem that must be managed through policies and ordinances.

      Noise can impact productivity through cognitive channels such as attention and working memory. This effect may be worse in settings like open offices, where noise has informational content and is constant. Tasks that have demands on attention are more likely to be impacted by noise. Noise pollution is a negative externality, where the person producing the noise is not directly bearing the costs of it. Historically, noise has been managed through ordinances to prevent noise pollution.

    • The Challenge of Noise Pollution and the Need for Structural SolutionsNoise pollution has been a problem for centuries and while regulation exists, enforcement is often ineffective. Focusing on individual solutions isn't enough. Governments need to implement wider structural solutions to effectively combat noise pollution.

      Noise pollution is one of the oldest externalities that has been a problem since ancient times, affecting everyone who is around it. Although most places have noise regulations, enforcement is not always effective, leading to a race to the bottom where people attempt to drown out the noise with louder noise. This can lead to a focus on individual behavioral solutions rather than wider structural solutions. Governments have been dealing with this problem for centuries, with the U.S. having a federal Office of Noise Abatement and Control until the early 1980s. Sound-and-noise scholars like Mack Hagood believe that we need to focus on wider, structural solutions to address the problem of noise pollution.

    • The Key to Reducing Noise Pollution: Respectful ListeningWe can reduce noise pollution and promote a healthier environment by acknowledging the impact of our own sounds on others and tuning down harmful and intrusive noises while still enjoying the vibrant sounds of the city.

      Arline Bronzaft suggests that respect is the key to reducing noise intrusion in our daily lives. By understanding and acknowledging that our sounds can intrude on the lives of others, we can take steps towards reducing noise pollution and promoting a quieter, healthier environment. However, she is not advocating for complete silence and recognizes the importance of vibrant sounds in the city. Rather, she emphasizes the need to tune down the ones that are harmful and intrusive. By doing so, we can enjoy the various wonderful sounds the city has to offer while also taking care of our health and well-being.

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