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Aug 31, 2007

I can’t believe I missed this: Rick Weiss of the Washington Post wrote a piece about the health effects of noise pollution.

The first thing that jumped out at me about the piece is that a lot of the info in the piece come from European studies and experts. I suppose that reflects the reality that Europeans take this stuff more seriously then we do.

Mr. Weiss also appeared on PRI’s Fair Game to discuss noise pollution.

My one comment about the interview is the part where Weiss claims that noise is “partly in the ear of the beholder.” This line of thought leads to people claiming that noise is “subjective.” Noise isn’t about what you like, it’s about what you find disruptive. I like bird song just as much as the next guy, but when the bird nest next to my bedroom window at my Billerica house kept waking me up at 5:00am, I wasn’t any less annoyed because it was only a bird. “Uplifting music” at 140 dB is going to be just as annoying as harder-edged music at the same ridiculous volume.

My rule of thumb: if a sound interferes with an activity (where activity may be sleep, conversation, quiet meditation, etc), it’s “noise.”

Weiss is right about “control” playing into our degree of annoyances. As Barry Blesser said, we can’t “close our ears” and that leaves us at the mercy of whatever sound environment that is imposed on us.


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