When Noise Pollution is Music

Last week one of my friends posted on Facebook that their group had left a restaurant where the music was too loud. Instead they went to a quieter place where they could enjoy dinner together.

I felt their pain. Too many times we have found ourselves in places where the music was jarringly, alarmingly loud. Restaurants, especially those catering to a young crowd, often believe that loud music is necessary for a good time.

Amping Up the Noise Level

Party bands also have their music amped up loud enough to shatter eardrums.

When one attends a celebratory gathering—wedding, anniversary party, birthday bash, bar mitzvah, graduation party, or just plain good-time party—that has a band, the noise level keeps getting louder.

The irony, of course, is that we look forward to spending time at parties with friends and family members we haven’t seen in a long time. We want to catch up, find out how folks are doing, and generally chat. Instead, the band subjects us to noise levels that make it impossible to hear oneself think, much less what the person right next to us is saying.

A Double Irony

Best earplugs for concerts, hearing loss, decibel level, dangerous noiseI have attended events where ear plugs were placed on the table along with the dinnerware and cutlery. That means the hosts have hired a band but given you the means to avoid hearing them — a double irony: .

Ordinary earplugs don’t work very well, though. At some events, the band’s noise has driven me right out of the dining room. I have picked up my plate and cutlery and gone into another room, or even the lobby, so I could eat my dinner in peace. Sometimes, others join me and we have a nice time, eating off a coffee table and (finally) talking to one another.

Deafening noise also comes from rock concerts and music piped directly into ears by ear buds. I count myself among the few people who attended one over-amped Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and had no desire to repeat the experience.

I admit that I don’t understand the attraction of such high-volume music. But I do understand its danger. Sit next to that nuclear amplifier for a few hours and you may just have tinnitus for the rest of your life. Go to enough to such events and your hearing may be affected—also for the rest of your life. You will not understand the danger of loud noise, however, until it’s too late. If  you are young, you won’t believe it could happen to you because hearing impairment is for old folks..

Hearing Aids for the Young

Given that the trend of overwhelming noise has been around for a while, I was not surprised to see an article in the New York Times: “Hearing Aids Are Changing. Their Users Are, Too” by Neelam Bohra.

Dangerous Noise Levels, chart

The CDC reports that about 20 percent of young adults, age 20-29 have hearing damaged by noise. Of course, they do. If the over-the-top bands at parties and concerts don’t do it, earbuds cranked to the max will. If you don’t believe me, check out the chart above. It puts a rock concert well into the danger zone.

Ms. Bohra is a young woman, so perhaps she is less shocked by what she calls the “noise-soaked world” of young people. She reports on the wonderful improvements that technology is making to Grandma’s clunky old hearing aids. I think that’s good news because it means the young people who have spent so much time and money damaging their hearing will be more likely to do something about it.

Party Pooper or Not

If the Music's Too Loud, You're Too OldI know, I know; I sound like a crabby old lady and a party pooper but that’s not really the case. At a much younger age I sat too close to a loud amplifier for too long. I have had tinnitus in one ear ever since.

Three things to know about tinnitus:

  1. The noise never stops, although it seems louder when you’re in a quiet place. Mine sounds like a high-pitched electronic whine but others hear other sounds.
  2. The medical profession doesn’t understand the physiology of what makes tinnitus.
  3. There is no real treatment. Hearing aids may help. Also, the internet offers crank cures for tinnitus that, I’m sure, are designed to separate you from your money.

If the music’s too loud, regardless of your age, it can affect your hearing and your health.

Loud Noise and Your Health

Danger Loud Music, Noise, Noise Levels, hearing impairmentExposure to loud noise has an impact on both mental and physical health. It can interfere with sleep, and may affect pregnancy. Loud noise can also worsen anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Because loud noise, musical or not, affects stress hormones, it makes me feel like I’m being assaulted and I just want to get away from it. Sometimes that means avoiding a concert, while other times I can just leave.

I enjoy talking to friends and family a whole lot more than I like having rock music blasted at me in an enclosed space. If that makes me a party pooper, that’s okay with me.