In 1996, the League for the Hard of Hearing in New York City instituted Noise Awareness Day to bring attention to the harmful effects of noise on human health. Today the day is observed world over on the last Wednesday in April, and is known as International Noise Awareness Day. In 2009, the League changed its name to the Center for Hearing and Communication.
In 2014, Nissan Leaf of Europe issued a press release and a video that brought attention to the day. In 2015, the marine wildlife protection organization OceanCare observed the day by delivering a petition to the Maldivian government. This year, the European Acoustics Association lists events planned in sixteen countries. In the United States, two colleagues and I marked the day by holding an educational event at a public library in New York City.
Whether you want to make a big impact or take the first step towards a modest goal, INAD is a day to spread the word about the health effects of environmental noise exposure, ways to protect hearing health, and ways that we can all improve access to relative quiet. It's also a day to think about how you might improve your own access to peace and quiet on a regular basis. If you aren't sure what you want to do or where to begin, read Recipe for a Quiet Diet, or try any of the following suggestions. Take action on International Noise Awareness Day and all year long.
||Learn more about noise. Read about sound, noise, quiet, and acoustics. Read books and academic literature about noise. Search for the latest articles about noise and health in Noise and Health and on the NIH website. Read the latest findings in areas of acoustics in the
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America,
Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics,
Acoustics Today, and
Read timeless articles about important noise topics including early noise activism.
||Donate literature about noise. Donate a book, or a set of books, related to noise or the soundscape to a public library. Donate a journal subscription related to noise to an academic library.
||Support organizations that address noise. Give to a non-profit organization or volunteer time to a local effort addressing noise. Consider supporting one of our supporters, or organizations like Quiet Communities or Hear the World.
||Protect your hearing. Ear plugs and other hearing protection are not the perfect solution to environmental noise, but the right hearing protection can alleviate some of the burden some of the time. In recent years, popular ear plug brands sold in drugstores have changed, becoming more comfortable but less effective at blocking out noise. When the last great store brand changed to a lower quality, I ordered the Try 'Em All! trial pack from the Ear Plug Superstore and found a brand that worked for me. I'm the last person to dismiss a noise complaint by saying "just wear ear plugs," but I rely on them every day, always have a pair with me, and won't travel without them.
||Move your bedroom to the quiet side. If your bedroom faces a chronic noise source and you have a room on the quiet side, relocating your bedroom there may result in better sleep.
||Be the neighbor you would like to have. The Right to Quiet Society lists steps to take to reduce your own noise. If you live in a multiple dwelling, be conscious of unintentional noise disturbance you might cause. If you get up early or go to bed late, plan ahead so that you create less noise while your downstairs neighbors are sleeping. If you prefer wooden floors to carpeting, learn to walk softly. Close doors quietly. If you're planning a home improvement project, let your neighbors know, and begin and end at reasonable times.
||Organize an educational event. Some libraries feature meeting rooms that are available free for public use. Organize a panel discussion about noise, and include a generous question and answer segment. Provide literature and be prepared to provide solutions. Or arrange to participate in a health fair or green festival with a literature table focusing on noise or the soundscape.
||Ditch distraction, boost brain power, and increase the peace. When you lock your car or look for your car in a parking lot, don't use a horn or chirp sound. Discordant horn sounds signal danger and create confusion, and cumulative electronic sounds demand attention and create distraction. Use your car's lights to signal locking, or learn to trust your car's lock mechanism, or test the door manually. Use memory tricks or use lights to locate your car.
||Honor nature. The National Park Service suggest ways to minimize your noise footprint in national parks, but we can do this in any setting, from highway rest stops to urban parks and cemeteries.
||Break with convention. Interior soundscapes in retail, dining, and medical offices should be planned as meticulously as visual design, and should be subtle, not overpowering. Business owners should turn to their staff for feedback, since employees are the ones listening and receiving the sound for a quarter of their waking lives. Soft classical music works in any setting, and some compositions intended for relaxation are worth exploring. Eliminating televised game shows, talk shows, political analysis, and promotional videos from waiting rooms afford patients and others a much needed break from digital distraction.
||Increase the peace. Quiet Cars on trains and Quiet Hours in retail are steps in the right direction, but quiet spaces and times should be increased, and sound levels can be reduced overall so that people with medical conditions and other special needs don't have to seek out limited space and highly specified times. For every reduction in sound that is classified as an accommodation for specific populations, others will benefit. Quiet hours in retail stores that benefit those with autism spectrum disorder are popular and have been well received by the general public. Empathy should not be underestimated.
||Embrace change. Automakers and tech leaders are competing with autonomous car design, an inconceivable concept in the 1970s, but nearly every automaker, tech company, and aftermarket designer still uses 1970s technology including horn sounds, backup beeping, and audible alarms with convenience and security features. Remote home security and vehicle monitoring systems are light years ahead of our current audible technology. It's time for automotive and tech thought leaders to leave the seventies behind and start using and promoting quieter technology. If benefits to sleep, health, and attention and reduced distraction are not incentive enough, they should consider the fact that many of their brands' owners think the audible technology "sounds cheap" (Maserati Ghibli) and sounds "loud, unrefined, ugly, and unappealing" (Cadillac CTS).
Turn Up the Quiet is a trademark of John Drinkwater at secondhandsound.org and is used with permission. All rights reserved.