Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Winter 2010 – page 2

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Another Christmas season soured with music in Arizona prisons


For two weeks a year it almost seems as if Bing Crosby was the warden of the 8,000 inmates in seven jails in Maricopa County. At least judging by the Christmas and holiday music that is piped over the public address system. The songfest begins at 7 a.m. and runs on repetition and without pauses for eight to 10 hours—whether inmates like it or not.

“It’s a nice touch for the inmates,” Sheriff Arpaio said. He’s the man behind the three-year-old practice, which started this season on Dec. 14 and ends Dec. 26.


“They are away from their loved ones and it gives them some holiday cheer,” he added. “It doesn’t matter whether they like it or they don’t like it,” Arpaio said. “They’re going to hear it. Unless they put toilet paper in their ears.”

In the past two years six lawsuits have been filed against the county for playing Christmas music. Complaints have ranged from a violation of civil rights to “cruel and unusual punishment.”

As of Dec. 17, 2009, five lawsuits had been thrown out.

— The Province/CNS

Noise as Therapy

Several years ago a band called Noise Therapy was profiled in The Outlook, a local newspaper formerly published on the North Shore.

Noise Therapy is a perfect ex-ample of an oxymoron: a pair of contradictory terms placed together. Indeed, how can noise be useful as therapy of any kind? In fact, sustained loud sounds might even drive a person to seek therapy.

Dave Ottoson, the lead singer in the Noise Therapy band, makes his living belting out raucous tunes; the band's music "is best defined as somewhere between thrash and heavy metal."

By way of defending both their name and their sound he explains that "Our band has a way of gravitating towards things that aren't normal."


And he defends their music by a comparison to Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys, concluding that "maybe loud and obnoxious isn't such a bad thing after all."

It is rather sad that the trend in modern music has fallen to these standards. I believe that many people today regard modern music as simply loud, sustained, unpleasant sounds, which is merely noise, and not music. Unfortunately, loud music has been embraced by the younger generation who have become almost addicted to it, despite the harmful effects of hearing loss which it frequently produces.

To paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill: "Some noise: some therapy!"

—Edited by Carole A. Martyn

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Hearing goes beyond the eardrums to skin and hair follicles, study finds

Research shows puffs of air on skin help people identify sounds.

By Richard J. Dalton, Jr.

You hear not just with your ears but also with your skin and hair follicles, according to a paper by University of British Columbia researchers published in the journal Nature on Nov. 26,2009.

Hold your hand in front of your mouth and say “ba”. Now say “pa”. You’ll notice a puff of air when you say “pa”. People listening will hear “pa” not just with their ears but also with their skin by feeling the puff of air, according to the paper by Bryan Gick, an associate professor at UBC, and Donald Derrick, a graduate student.

The pair conducted an experiment in which they applied tiny puffs of air to study participants’ necks and skin when the subjects were listening to the syllables “ba”, “pa” or “ta”. Their paper notes that people’s skin and even hair follicles recognise a puff of air when a person says “pa” or “ta”. The puffs were applied to the neck and top of the hand because hair follicles help people perceive the puff of air.

When participants felt a puff of air on their skin from a compressor, they were more likely to perceive the syllable “pa” when in fact the syllable “ba” had been spoken, the researchers found. People have traditionally believed that “we see with our eyes, and we hear with our ears, and we feel with our skin and so on, and that there are


parts of the brain that only deal with hearing and so on.

“Recent research, including ours, has been leading in a different direction,” he said. “We are naturally multimodal, very versatile perceivers, and we can use any part of our body to pick up information about objects and events around us in our environment. And we naturally incorporate all of that information into our perception of the world.”

Researchers already knew we incorporate what we see into our sense of hearing. Under what is called the McGurk effect, if a person watched a video in which the audio said “ba”, the sounds merge into “da”. The UBC research indicates that what you feel also may be what you hear. On average, subjects were 10% more likely to say they heard “pa” when they actually heard “ba”. Gick said the figure is significant, in part, because people are not consciously aware of the puff of air.

Gick said the study helps researchers understand the mechanism of human perception. Eventually the research might be used to enhance hearing aids by using puffs of air or to attach a pneumatic puffing device to airline pilots’ headsets to enhance hearing in the noisy environment, Gick said.

— The Vancouver Sun

“Strength makes no noise; it is just there and has its effect.” Dr. Albert Schweitzer
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