Why I gave up on exercise classes! (L.P.)
"If you were asked to exercise in a room where the level of radioactivity was hundreds of times higher than the allowable dose set by the National Radiation Protection board, I'm sure students would be demanding the facility be shut down. Yet this same situation exists in group exercise settings, the only difference is in the aerobics class the radiation is acoustic energy and the affected organ is very specific, your ear." --Eugenie V. Mielczarek, George Mason University, on unhealthy sound levels in exercise classes, WAMU radio, October 15, 2004. - Contributed by Lee Perry

Wagner tops the road hazard hit parade

By Joanne Laucius

Whether the anthem is rock or opera, cranking up the volume - and ratcheting up the tempo - is a hazard on the road. Researchers at Memorial University in Newfoundland have found that people handling mental and physical tasks took longer to react when they were working around high levels of noise. Earlier studies have shown that the tempo of music also affects driving ability.

The findings have prompted Britain's RAC Foundation, which represents the interests of motorists, to name the top five perilous pieces on the road. The hazardous tunes list includes Richard Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, followed by the frantic beats of the Prodigy, Basement Jaxx and Faithless. Giuseppe Verdi's Dies Irae came fifth. Based on the beat criteria, other songs also named as hazard on the road include Motorhead's Ace of Spades and Kylie Mongue's In Your Eyes.

"There is no fundamental difference between the boy racer listening to rave music and the businessman pumping out opera," said Conrad King, consultant psychologist to the RAC Foundation. "When he has the Ride of the Valkyries coming out of the speakers, heaven help anyone who gets in his way. It all depends on the speed of the beat of the music."

The RAC said drivers who were listening to music with a fast beat were twice as likely to go through a red light and have twice as many accidents. An Israeli study released in 2002 subjected 28 students using a driving simulator to different kinds of music from slow ballads to club dance music, ranging from a soothing 60 beats a minute to a roaring 120 beats a minute.

It found music faster than 60 beats a minute led to faster heart rates and higher blood pressure. The number of notes in classical music, combined with the repetitive crescendo and diminuendo can have the same effect.

Newfoundland study subjects performed mental and physical tasks while listening to noise ranging from 53 decibels, the level of background noise in an office, to 95 decibels, the equivalent of an oil rig. At 53 decibels, reaction time slowed by five per cent. At 95 decibels, the ability to perform physical tasks dropped by about 10 per cent.

- Ottawa Citizen

"Muzak" in operating rooms
Twice in recent years I had to have minor surgery in two Vancouver hospitals. Each time there was a radio blaring in the operating room proper, obviously for the entertainment of staff and, possibly doctors as well. I was lucky that it was turned off upon my request, albeit rather begrudgingly. The attitude manifested there could lead one to speculate that without the acoustic entertainment, staff and perhaps doctors, too, might do an inferior job for feeling deprived of this perceived alleviator from a stressful (monotonous?) occupation. - H. Schmid

? Hello surgical music. Music has been an operating room staple since it was technologically possible, says The Denver Post, adding that although there are no U.S. data on the percentage of doctors who operate to music, 80 to 90 per cent of new or remodelled operating rooms finished since 2000 have built-in sound systems with quality stereo speakers, according to one medical-equipment planner. Dr. John Grossman, a plastic surgeon who practises in Denver and Beverly Hills, CA, says that operating "is this ballet, and the music provides some of the rhythm for that ballet. When it is liposuction it has to be that kind of rhythm, and when it is a facelift it is another, and when it is a breast augmentation it is another." - The Globe and Mail

Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Spring 2005
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