The words sound and noise have been used synonymously when referring to acoustics, electronics, and physics. It has a different meaning when referring to listeners. Sound is “audible acoustic energy defined as vibrations that travel through the air or another medium that can be heard when it reaches the ears of a person or an animal”. Noise is simply defined as “unwanted sound”.
From an engineering perspective, noise also implies that they are signals without meaning and they fluctuate over time. On the other hand, sound implies meaningful signals. A more accurate definition of noise would be “undesired sound”. This definition was developed by the Acoustical Society of America for the American National Standards Institute and is frequently used in prominent and scientific writings. One could argue that this definition should be expanded.
The idea of ‘Undesired’ Sounds Varies from Person to Person
What is the purpose of having a new definition of ‘noise’? A term gives words meanings in technical and ordinary usage. The world seems to be getting louder each day. Defining noise as unwanted sound suggests the perception of noise is only subjective and that noise is a nuisance, where the harmful health effects are ignored. This also implies a value judgment, which downplays the concern of the person who objects to the noise. There is also the attitude that those who complain about noise are neurotic, self-centered, weak, or have a psychological problem that would emphasize how sounds seem innocuous to most people.
The last implication is not correct. Sounds that people enjoy can cause damage to your hearing health. Obnoxious sounds can be stressful. Stress can cause vascular inflammation, a rise in cardiovascular disease, and death.
Dr. Daniel Fink MD, MBA is the board chair of The Quiet Coalition based in Lincoln, MA. He is an expert consultant to the World Health Organization on its Make Listening Safe program and a subject matter expert for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on noise-induced hearing loss in public. Fink is proposing a new definition of ‘noise’: unwanted and/or harmful sound.
Noise Levels are on the Rise
Although there is a general view that the world is getting noisier, there is very little evidence of it. The only evidence that is available is found in restaurants. In 1993, the average noise level in Dayton, OH restaurants was 68.5 dBA. In 2018, the average restaurant noise levels in New York City were 77 dBA. Bars had an average of 81 dBA; 31 percent of restaurants and 60 percent of bars had average noise levels over 81 dBA.
There are no federal government regulations for non-occupational noise exposure. The only public advice comes from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), which stated that extensive or repeated noise exposure to 85 dB or more can lead to hearing loss. This is a false and misleading statement. The only evidence-based noise level that has shown to prevent hearing loss is a time-weighted average of 70 dB for 24 hours.
Simply raising awareness is not enough to do something about rising noise levels. There must be health guidelines developed on a federal level, along with recommendations and laws for non-occupational noise exposure.
If you, or a loved one, are experiencing hearing loss, please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids for a free hearing test and consultation.
Pure Sound services will only be available by appointment and for essential visits at this time. Essential visits include all appointments that require repairs, re-fittings, and new hearing aid fittings. If you are having any problems with your hearing aids, or need supplies for your hearing aids, please call us before visiting one of our offices.