Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Winter 2014, page 4

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Tossing a towel over noise pollution

By Kim Kook

Homeowner Christine Igot knows one thing for sure: “I will not have a fridge in my kitchen ever again,” she says firmly. In the new house she’s building, in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, the 51-year-old is putting the refrigerator in a pantry off the kitchen and will double insulate the walls. Why? All that noise, noise, noise. Her present house has an open plan, and the sound of the fridge drives her crazy. “I tried to get used to it. I had an appliance man come to see if it was running properly.” It was - it just emitted a high-pitched whine.

Roxanne Went uses her car as “a cone of silence” to escape the noise of leaf blowers outside her suburban West Chester, Pa., home, and of family members’ blaring music inside. For baby boomers, noise matters. “Decreased tolerance for loud sounds is a fairly common symptom of age-related hearing loss, as the range of comfortable listening levels seems to shrink,” says Ted Madison, an audiologist in St. Paul, Minn., and a representative of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

So what are the loud products we live with at home? According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, based in Rockville, Md., the “very loud” range includes blenders, blow dryers, vacuum cleaners and alarm clocks, all in the 80 to 90 decibel range. “Extremely loud” - in the 100 to 110 decibel range - are snow blowers, gas lawnmowers and some MP3 players.

In Brighton, England, a Noise Abatement Society fields complaints from citizens about annoyances ranging from neighbours’ power tools to barking dogs to wind chimes. Managing director Poppy Elliot says her team decided to channel the collective angst over unwanted noise into “Quiet Mark,” a seal of approval they give to products designed to be quieter.

So far more than 35 products have received the designation, from hair dryers to commercial tools, and Eliot said the organization is expanding globally. “The ultimate aim is to encourage industry across the board to put a high priority on factoring in low noise at the design stage. Investment in acoustic design and sound quality of a product should be just as important as energy efficiency or visual design,” Elliot says.

Manufacturers are responding to concerns about noise with new, quieter products. LG has several - including the TrueSteam dishwasher - that use a Direct Drive motor, an alternative to the noisier belt-and-pulley system of traditional motors. Swiss-based Liebherr uses low-sound dual air compressors and cooling circuits in their high-end fridges. And Samsung’s dishwasher has extra insulation, which cuts the sound.

Rowenta’s noise-reducing inventions include the Turbo Silence home fan and the Silence Form Extreme vacuum cleaner, which emits a decidedly timid 65 decibels. Electrolux’s Ultra Silencer canister vacuum comes in at 68 decibels. As for hair dryers, the Centrix Q Zone and Bio-lonic IDry Whisper Light are two low-noise options; the latter was one of the first products to receive the Quiet Mark designation.

And Stihl has a line of lithium-ion battery yard gear - including a leaf blower, mower and trimmer - that are much quieter than gas-powered equipment.

- The Associated Press

Noise in hospitals as a strain for the medical staff

POMA Volume 19, pp. 040092 (June 2013); (6 pages)
Silvester Siegmann, Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf, Institute for occupational and social medicine, Universitaets-strasse 1, Duesseldorf, NRW 40225 Germany
Gert Notbohm, University of Duesseldorf, Duesseldorf, NRW 40225 Germany

Noise research in hospitals focuses mainly on the harmful effects on patients. But at least in intensive care units and operation theatres, also the staff is exposed to high levels of noise during considerable portions of working time. Evidence from literature is summarized here. During operation sessions lasting from 30 min. to several hours, reported average Leq values range from 58 to 72 dB(A) with maximum levels above 105 dB(A). Similar noise levels are reported from emergency departments.

As concentration, precise communication and fast decisions are necessary in these situations, the acoustical environment has to be considered an enormous strain for the staff and a potential risk with regard to faults at work. But also during normal day and night shifts in intensive care units, noise is mentioned as an important disturbance by the medical staff. Most disturbing are noises from telephones and other communication tools and the signals and sounds from medical devices. Questionnaire surveys result in 80 to 91 % of the staff reporting negative effects of noise in their daily work. A variety of measures for noise reduction and prevention in hospitals is suggested in literature emphasizing that the staff plays a decisive role in such projects.

© 2013 Acoustical Society of America
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