When we think about pollution we usually point to foul air, unsafe water, or toxic waste. But as we enter 2019, what about the damage noise is doing to our health? Aren’t we being bombarded by more noise than ever before?
From the street outside the busy coffee shop where I am sitting comes the pounding of a pneumatic drill – not more roadworks! Now it’s the roar of a dustcart. Business is getting back to “normal”.
An ambulance picks its way down the high street, siren wailing ever louder: I’m told its 120 decibels. Inside: the cheery background hum of human voices and laughter is broken by mobile phones going off – and people shouting into them, the clatter of saucers, and baristas bashing out coffee grounds, while the frappé machine sounds like it’s cutting up granite chippings. Sooner or later – it’s that not knowing when that makes it so unsettling – I bet they’re going to empty the bottle bank! Even recycling comes at a cost to our ears. They say one person’s noise is another’s sweet music. But, come on, there are limits!
The Environmental Noise Directive 2002/49/EC requires all EU members to construct “noise maps” and develop action plans to reduce noise levels.
Cork City Council’s Noise Action Plan identifies places that have more than six million vehicles passing per year. Noise levels are recorded and colour coded on maps.
Apart from roads, and their associated sounds – the slamming of car doors, the booming bass of some car sound systems, car horns and alarms ¬– we are surrounded by other peoples’ conversations in our open-plan offices, the incessant babble of televisions, leaf blowers, chain saws, deafening hand dryers in public toilets – do they really save energy? – and cinema film tracks played louder than ever before.
It’s a loud world out there all right, what David Hendy (Noise: A Human History of Sound and Listening, 2013) calls “an amplified age”, a time many of us compare unfavourably to when there were only natural sounds: babbling brooks, roaring rivers, slapping waves, “the holly whistling, the ash hissing, the beech tree rustling as its boughs rise and fall”
Source – Irish Examiner