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Noise Pollution Versus Quiet Contemplation

I’m Thinking – Please Be Quiet

The following is an excerpt from Author George Prochnik that ran in the New York Times Opinion Pages on Sunday, August 24, 2013.  George Prochnik is the author of the forthcoming book “The Impossible Exile.” 

Slamming doors, banging walls, bellowing strangers and whistling neighbors were the bane of the (19th Century German) philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s (shown above) existence. But it was only in later middle age, after he had moved with his beloved poodle to the commercial hub of Frankfurt, that his sense of being tortured by loud, often superfluous blasts of sound ripened into a philosophical diatribe. Then, around 1850, Schopenhauer pronounced noise to be the supreme archenemy of any serious thinker.

His argument against noise was simple: A great mind can have great thoughts only if all its powers of concentration are brought to bear on one subject, in the same way that a concave mirror focuses light on one point.

Just as a mighty army becomes useless if its soldiers are scattered helter-skelter, a great mind becomes ordinary the moment its energies are dispersed.

And nothing disrupts thought the way noise does, Schopenhauer declared, adding that even people who are not philosophers lose whatever ideas their brains can carry in consequence of brutish jolts of sound.

From the vantage point of our own auditory world, with its jets, jackhammers, HVAC systems, truck traffic, cellphones, horns, decibel-bloated restaurants and gyms on acoustical steroids, Schopenhauer’s mid-19th century complaints sound almost quaint. His biggest gripe of all was the “infernal cracking” of coachmen’s whips. (If you think a snapping line of rawhide’s a problem, buddy, try the Rumbler Siren.) But if noise did shatter thought in the past, has more noise in more places further diffused our cognitive activity?

Environmental noise calls attention to itself — splits our own attention, regardless of willpower. We jerk to the tug of noise like sonic marionettes. There’s good reason for this. Among mammals, hearing developed as an early warning system; the human ear derived from the listening apparatus of very small creatures. Their predators were very big, and there were many of them.

The evolved ear is an extraordinary amplifier. By the time the brain registers a sound, our auditory mechanism has jacked the volume several hundredfold from the level at which the sound wave first started washing around the loopy whirls of our ears. This is why, in a reasonably quiet room, we actually can hear a pin drop. Think what a tiny quantity of sound energy is released by a needle striking a floor! Our ancestors needed such hypersensitivity, because every standout noise signified a potential threat.

There has been a transformation in our relationship to the environment over the millions of years since the prototype for human hearing evolved, but part of our brain hasn’t registered the makeover.

Every time a siren shrieks on the street, our conscious minds might ignore it, but other brain regions behave as if that siren were a predator barreling straight for us. Given how many sirens city dwellers are subject to over the course of an average day, and the attention-fracturing tension induced by loud sounds of every sort, it’s easy to see how sensitivity to noise, once an early warning system for approaching threats, has become a threat in itself.

Indeed, our capacity to tune out noises — a relatively recent adaptation — may itself pose a danger, since it allows us to neglect the physical damage that noise invariably wreaks. A Hyena (Hypertension and Exposure to Noise Near Airports) study published in 2009 examined the effects of aircraft noise on sleeping subjects. The idea was to see what effect noise had, not only on those awakened by virtual fingernails raking the blackboard of the night sky, but on the hardy souls who actually slept through the thunder of overhead jets.

The findings were clear: even when people stayed asleep, the noise of planes taking off and landing caused blood pressure spikes, increased pulse rates and set off vasoconstriction and the release of stress hormones. Worse, these harmful cardiovascular responses continued to affect individuals for many hours after they had awakened and gone on with their days.

As Dr. Wolfgang Babisch, a lead researcher in the field, observed, there is no physiological habituation to noise. The stress of audible assault affects us psychologically even when we don’t consciously register noise.

In American culture, we tend to regard sensitivity to noise as a sign of weakness or killjoy prudery. To those who complain about sound levels on the streets, inside their homes and across a swath of public spaces like stadiums, beaches and parks, we say: “Suck it up. Relax and have a good time.” But the scientific evidence shows that loud sound is physically debilitating. A recent World Health Organization report on the burden of disease from environmental noise conservatively estimates that Western Europeans lose more than one million healthy life years annually as a consequence of noise-related disability and disease. Among environmental hazards, only air pollution causes more damage.

A while back, I was interviewed on a call-in radio station serving remote parts of Newfoundland. One caller lived in a village with just a few houses and almost no vehicular traffic. Her family had been sitting in the living room one evening when the power suddenly cut off. They simultaneously exhaled a sigh of relief. All at once, the many electronic devices around them (including the refrigerator, computers, generator, lamps and home entertainment systems and the unnatural ambient hum they generated and to which the family had become oblivious) went silent. The family members didn’t realize until the sound went off how loud it had become. Without knowing it, each family member’s mental energy was constantly diverted by and responsive to the threat posed by that sound.

Where does this leave those of us facing less restrained barrages? Could a critical mass of sound one day be reached that would make sustained thinking impossible?

Is quiet a precondition of democracy? The Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter suggested it might just be. “The men whose labors brought forth the Constitution of the United States had the street outside Independence Hall covered with earth so that their deliberations might not be disturbed by passing traffic,” he once wrote. “Our democracy presupposes the deliberative process as a condition of thought and of responsible choice by the electorate.”

The quiet in Independence Hall was not the silence of a monastic retreat, but one that encouraged listening to others and collaborative statesmanship; it was a silence that made them more receptive to the sound of the world around them.

Most people who are seeking more serenity from the acoustical environment aren’t asking for the silence of the tomb. We just believe we should be able to hear ourselves think.

Speaking of Silence, and of Noise

 We prize silence, or do we? Don’t we really prize the sounds that give us pleasure?

When bread is scarce, a protruding belly counts as beauty; when garbage dumpsters stink with wasted food, slenderness is prized. Small wonder that in our noisy civilization we often speak so longingly of silence.

But most of us, most of the time, do not really desire silence. Something in us recoils from an utter absence of sound. The composer John Cage famously spent some time in a sensory deprivation chamber; he did not enjoy himself. Silence and noise have both been used as interrogation techniques. Both can amount to torture.

This is not to suggest that silence and noise are equivalent. Silence doesn’t elevate blood pressure or stimulate stress hormones or retard children’s learning the way that noise does. In terms of acoustical impact, noise will always hold the whip hand. Your noise can destroy my silence, but my silence is powerless against your noise.

The composer R. Murray Schafer, who gave us the word “soundscape,” referred to the dominance of noise as “sound imperialism.” Though noise may wrap itself in the mantle of diversity — if you don’t like vuvuzelas, you must not be multicultural — diversity is always the first casualty of noise.

Still, silence is hardly the answer to noise, and rarely its most attractive alternative. People who complain about noise are likely to be heard as silencers — and perhaps just as likely to fancy themselves as lovers of silence and therefore, in the minds of their antagonists, as haters of music, joyousness, the human race itself. An unfortunate mistake all around. The acoustic zone most of us wish to inhabit is not silence but quietness (a few sounds) or conviviality (an ecology of many sounds).

Picture a small lake in summertime, then close your mind’s eye and listen to the sounds belonging to your picture: children laughing in the shallow water, mothers calling “That’s far enough,” laughter at the ice cream stand, ducks quacking in the reeds beside the beach, oars dipping into the water, a dog barking after a Frisbee, a radio playing softly next to two lovers cuddling in the sand, the aha of an old man who’s just caught a fish, the soft psst of an unscrewed bottle cap — all the diverse sounds of a diverse company of human beings enjoying their leisure.

Implicit in this soundscape are some choices. Set your blanket near the water if you like your soundscape spicy; walk a ways beyond the beach if you prefer it plain, understated, still.

Excerpted from an article in the LA Times by Garret Keizer

Noise Pollution: The Number One Quality of Life Complaint

Noise pollution is making us sick, nervous, distracted, unproductive, and sleep deprived. It’s even killing us. Do we pull a Henry Bean to make it stop?

If you saw the movie “Noise” you may know that Henry Bean is the real life batterer of car alarms on whose life the movie, starring Tim Robbins, was based. Bean could not stand the sound of car alarms blaring for up to four hours in his Manhattan neighborhood, and when car owners didn’t address their blaring alarms soon enough, Bean did.

“It bothers me that their cars can shout in my ear, not stop shouting, and I can’t do anything about it,” Bean said in a 2008 interview. “My pride can’t handle it. I can’t exist if I don’t fight back in some way, however pathetically or ineffectually.”

Bean spent years breaking into those cars with blaring, unattended alarms. It was during a particularly sleep-deprived night that he broke into a car whose alarm had been blaring for more than four hours outside of his apartment. By the time Bean broke the car’s window, popped the hood and disconnected the battery cable, the car had already been pummeled with eggs, beer and tomatoes.

“People inflicted their fury, but nobody did what I did,” he said.

Oh, and the car’s owner called the police. Bean spent a night in jail, and thousands on his legal defense. When all was said and done, he was admonished but hardly reformed. He has admitted to taking  more blaring car alarms out since his arrest, but he skims the details.The character based on Bean in the movie “Noise” sacrificed his marriage and his Manhattan apartment in his uncontrollable need  to shut down car alarms, waging a one-man war on the urban noise pollution in what began as an attempt to get some peace and quiet.

The film received good reviews, but the general public wasn’t interested.  Apparently noise isn’t  a big box office attraction, but the film itself did a good job of defining a pervasive form of pollution that, although it is harming us, gets little attention from most people. Studies have revealed time and again that noise can be harmful to human health, just like air and water pollution. Noise damages our hearing, interrupts our sleep, and raises our blood pressure to dangerous levels. According to the World Health Organization, noise pollution is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths a year.

In New York City, noise is the number one quality-of-life complaint. Arline Bronzaft, a psychologist who studies noise, is a member of New York’s Council on the Environment, and helped rewrite the city’s noise code in recent years. It was Bronzaft’s landmark 1970s research that brought attention to the noise of elevated train tracks, which hampered the academic performance of children in nearby schools. In July 2007, the first new noise codes in New York in more than 30 years went into effect, regulating construction noise, air-conditioner noise, garbage truck grinding and even music from bars and restaurants.  That’s right, taxi drivers are no longer permitted to lean on their horns except in situations of “imminent danger.”

Today, urban landscapes can be so noisy that ornithologists have discovered birds warbling at the top of their lungs to be heard. Nightingales in Berlin have been documented singing up to 14 decibels louder than their relatives in quieter surroundings, in an attempt to be heard above all the city noise Yet the cacophony of modern life is hardly confined to metropolises like New York or Cairo, Egypt, where you literally have to shout on the street to make yourself heard.

In “Noise,” the Bean character and his family head to the country for a weekend to escape the city’s noise, only to be besieged by a neighbor’s noisy leaf blower. Escaping noise is not an easy task.

Even scarier is the fact that noise affects your health, even when you sleep through it.

Scientists at Imperial College London monitored the blood pressure of 140 sleeping volunteers who lived near London’s Heathrow airport. Their research discovered that the volunteers’ blood pressure rose when a plane few overhead, even while the volunteer slept. Another study of 5,000, 45-to-70-year-old people living near airports for five years or longer found that they were at greater risk of suffering from hypertension / high blood pressure than their peers in quieter communities.  In 2007, the World Health Organization estimated that long-term exposure to traffic noise may account for three percent of deaths from ischemic heart disease among Europeans.

Meanwhile, the world continues to get louder.  The 20th century was the loudest in the history of the world, and the past decade was the loudest decade in the history of the world, according to researchers. The question is, when – if ever – will it get quieter?

How About a Big Box of Peace and Quiet for Dad This Year?

Father’s Day is fast approaching – June 17, only nine days away. If you’re searching for the perfect Father’s Day gift this year, you’re probably looking beyond the obligatory card and tie.

If you polled dads across the country, their number one wish for Father’s Day might be peace and quiet. And they really mean it – a solid stretch of at least 10 hours of silence, or the closest thing to it they can find.

Now, this could be a challenge. How do you gift a commodity as valuable and, more often than not out of reach, as quiet?

A gift certificate for a massage could be a good bet. Check ahead with the spa to make sure their masseuse is not a chatty type, and fetch your dad one to two hours of undisturbed ahhhhhh.  If he’s a golfer, time on the green might be a favorite escape, if he can squeeze in his tee-off mid week when most courses are quietest. But even the most creative choices for giving dad some quiet time are fleeting. Buying quiet is just not easy.

It may seem like a stretch, but how many adults do you know, men and women, who don’t dream of a quiet space at home they can call their own? Soundproofing in homes today is growing in popularity, although most homeowners aren’t sure where to begin or what the cost might be.

Although the scientific veracity of these findings may be debatable, on a recent episode of “Family Feud,” a television game show that asks contestants to guess the most popular answers to random questions, the results of the show’s survey question: “Name the noisiest room in a house,” were, in this order:

  • Living room
  • Kitchen
  • Bedroom
  • Bathroom

If the dad in your life were to choose his own peace and quiet oasis, he may or may not choose any of these rooms, but for practical purposes most homeowners look to install noise absorbing and noise blocking materials in a home theater or home office. These rooms tend to provide a comfort level that can be enjoyed for long stretches of time, whereas a bathroom might not offer any realistic relaxation space for more than 20 minutes.  The kitchen may not offer the absolute isolation that is part and parcel with peace and quiet, which makes the living room an equally questionable contender.

Different rooms have different noise abatement needs, so if you decided that the dad in your household would appreciate a quiet space of his own (or one you could share), the first step would be to talk to an acoustical consultant who can evaluate noise issues in the home, and help choose the best room for soundproofing treatment.

Let me just mention that soundproofing is never absolute. Eliminating all sound completely is simply not achievable, but noise can be dramatically reduced in a room – and in today’s noisy world, this “little luxury” is growing in popularity as more and more people seek solitude from the clamor of everyday life.

Noise abatement in a home theater makes sense, as this room is meant for enjoying music, movies, and television with as little external acoustical interference as possible. Eliminating noise in home theaters can be tricky because there may be issues of vibration and low frequency sound that requires a different sound abatement approach than, say, a room in which the challenge is keeping external noise out.

A home office might make sense for soundproofing treatments, since most homes do not have home theaters, and home offices are becoming standard as more people choose to telecommute. Depending on factors such as the number and placement of windows, as well as noise sources affecting the room, a noise blocking or noise absorbing treatment may be called for, or possibly a combination of both.  An acoustical expert can also determine if the ceiling or floor need noise abatement treatments as well.

For anyone who has struggled with noise-related sleep deprivation, the bedroom may be the best choice for soundproofing, especially since it can serve as a comfortable retreat when the need for peace and quiet arises.

As the number of studies proving the negative health effects of noise keeps growing, the number of people looking to install noise insulating material in their homes grows. Increasingly, architects and builders are including soundproofing material in new home projects as a selling point that definitely appeals to buyers.

When I was growing up, ours was a family of eight children in a cavernous six-bedroom house on Lake Michigan, built in the late 19th century. There were always a door slamming, voices echoing, televisions, radios, stereos blaring – it was a boisterous household. My dad found his solitude in our bunker of a basement, which actually did a good job of sealing out the upstairs chaos above.

But that basement was built more than 100 years ago as a fortified shelter to protect the home’s inhabitants from the tornadoes that occasionally moved in off the lake in summer. Its solid stone walls were thick enough to house a wine cellar. Dad was a quiet guy, who rarely seemed perturbed by the noise in the house; he would just slip down to the basement to putter when he needed peace and quiet.

It wasn’t until he passed away in 1994 that we realized how peaceful his cellar lair actually was, an oasis in that big old house where over the years he taught himself to build delicate ships in bottles, make custom fishing rods and golf clubs, and kill time with a half a dozen other hobbies that required quiet and  focus.

Everyone deserves such an oasis of peace and quiet, although you’re just not going to get it in most houses built after the early 20th century.  In modern houses, creating a “peace and quiet” room can be the best Father’s Day gift yet, especially since mom can enjoy it too. Realtors find that home soundproofing can increases the resale value as well.

If you can think of a better Father’s Day gift – or perhaps you already have – tell us about it in the comments below.

Maintain Quiet and Privacy in Your Own Backyard

Creating a quiet and private oasis in a front or back yard, one that will cut traffic noise, noise from nearby trains, barking dogs, the noisy generators and heat pumps in neighbors’ yards, and even the noisy neighbors themselves is an excellent investment, not only in your home’s value, but in the quality of your lifestyle.

Traffic noise is actually one of the most difficult soundproofing projects that any soundproofing engineer or acoustical consultant could ever have to tackle. In essence you are trying to soundproof the outdoors, from the outdoors. It is tough to accomplish, but there are methods that can block noise dramatically and give you the private and serene yard you long for.

A fence alone will do nothing to block traffic-generated noise.  A fence or barrier made of stone or masonry will increase your chances of blocking the noise but depending on your budget, where you live, and your city’s ordinances, you may be prohibited from constructing this type of fence.

Some city ordinances also limit fence heights to six-feet, eight-feet or 10-feet. Since the “line-of-sight” rule says that if you can see the source of the noise by looking over the fence, you will be able to hear it; although attaching sound blocking fencing material to a six-foot fence will significantly decrease noise, a fence built eight- to 10-feet high with sound barrier fencing material attached will create a seriously quiet oasis in any back yard. Homeowners can enjoy family time, entertaining, and simply sharing a quiet meal outdoors without external noise infringing, and without disturbing their neighbors.

If you are planning to build a wooden fence (dog eared slat type) then all the gaps in the wood fence must be caulked in with a good acoustical caulk. After you have caulked the gaps between the slats, you will need to line the backside or the side facing the traffic, with a high quality outdoor noise blocking fencing material made specifically for this type of application.

Some noise reduction fencing material comes with anodized brass grommets across the top and bottom, allowing it to be easily hung over the existing fence (wood, chain link, or other structure) and secured with heavy duty nylon wire ties. It can be hung on the outside of the fence facing the noise source, or on the inside of the fence, facing the property, and can be removed and reused for special events, or kept in place permanently.

More and more landscape architects, gardeners, and homeowners are utilizing noise abatement fencing to create a private, peaceful backyard retreat. When choosing a noise abatement material to hang on an existing fence, installation should be easy, and care must be taken to install it properly so that no gaps remain between sections of noise reduction fencing material. Overlapping sections eliminates any worry of noise seeping through.

A sound abatement consultant can provide you with professional advice when it comes to choosing the best noise abatement fencing product and its application, according to the height of your fence and the level on noise control you wish to achieve.

When installing any sound barrier fence, curb appeal is an important factor, in addition to the product’s appearance within the yard. Acoustical fencing in itself offers no aesthetic value, but can easily be camouflaged with greenscaping that blocks the view of the fence. When designing a yard for acoustic comfort, there are plenty of options to use foliage as an aesthetic finishing touch.

Decorative Fencing Attachments

Additionally, there are high-quality fencing attachments available that actually hang directly over the acoustical fencing, to camouflage an entire fence with scenic landscapes. These attachments can create the illusion that the fence blends in with the existing landscape, or they can create a whole new aesthetic. With hundreds of designs available, and the option to have a custom scene made, these landscape attachments, which are made of UV resistant solar shade material (the same material used in patio umbrellas and outdoor furniture fabrics) are an excellent option for hiding an acoustical fence. They can be hung to face the street, and they can be hung to face the yard, or both.

Your backyard should provide a tranquil and private retreat, where the grounds are shielded from external noise, and your family can have fun and privacy year round. Installing the right acoustical fence is the first step toward achieving that goal.

Not Enough People Making Noise About Noise?

Noise. No other pollutant ruins nearly as many lives in industrialized countries as noise – and it is the only one known to drive sufferers to murder – yet few receive so little public attention. Green pressure groups, so vocal on so many environmental threats, are almost universally silent about it. Virtually no governments, anywhere in the world, seem to be prepared to give the case for comprehensive action much of a hearing.

Hearing and health suffer. One in every eight American youngsters, aged six to 19, has been found to have noise-related hearing loss, while Stewart predicts: “Within a decade or two, the iPod in the ear could be replaced with the hearing aid.” Learning can be affected. A study in a Manhattan school found that children in classrooms beside a busy train track recorded reading scores 11 months behind their counterparts on the quiet side of the building. When measures were taken to reduce the noise, they caught up.

Two thirds of Europeans – 450 million people – are exposed every day to noise levels that the World Health Organization (WHO) says are unacceptable. In Britain, more than half a million people appear to move home every year to escape the din. Ten years ago, a survey found that 12 million of us were disturbed by traffic, 3.5 million by passing aircraft, and 11 million by noisy neighbors. This is bound to have got worse: household noise complaints have risen five-fold over the past two decades.

Of course, we have been surrounded by sound since before birth – the womb is quite a noisy place – and noise pollution is as old as civilization. Two and a half thousand years ago, Buddhist scriptures recorded the “10 great noises” of contemporary cities as “elephants, horses, chariots, drums, tabors, lutes, songs, cymbals, gongs and people crying ‘Eat ye, and drink!’  ”. Just over 100 years ago, a “plague of city noises” described in New York was not far different: “horse-drawn vehicles, peddlers, musicians, animals and bells”.

Within a few decades, this changed; the 10 most annoying noises identified in a New York survey in 1929 all emanated from machines, and since then the automated cacophony has escalated. Particularly disturbing – as a new book by one of Britain’s leading environmental campaigners, John Stewart, points out – is the low-frequency noise produced by aircraft, wind turbines and many household appliances such as washing machines and air conditioners. “The rise and rise of low-frequency noise,” he writes in Why Noise Matters, “is part of the reason for the growing number of noise complaints.”

But only part. More people say they hate piped music in shops, restaurants and public buildings than like it. Noisy neighbors occasionally provoke their victims to kill them. And while some endure – or even seem to enjoy – noise, about one in 10 people are particularly sensitive to it.

Noise also raises blood pressure and increases heart rates, especially at night, leading to cardiovascular and other diseases, as well as affecting sleep. The WHO calculated this year that Europeans collectively lose at least a million years of healthy living as a result.

Wildlife, which relies on sound to communicate, is affected too. It’s most obvious in the oceans, where underwater noise is estimated to have doubled each decade over the past 50 years – shipping has grown, oil and gas prospectors use loud blasts from “airguns” to scope the sea bed, and navies increasingly rely on sonar. Whole populations of whales and dolphins – which often use much the same frequencies – are potentially threatened, and fish catches have fallen. And noise on land disrupts intricate ecosystems of sound, where different species divide the acoustic spectrum between them so that they do not interfere with each other’s communication.

Many of the solutions are known: traffic noise could be cut by 70 per cent; shipping could be made much quieter; sound insulation in homes could reduce neighbor noise; and piped music could be simply turned off. Indeed, on Tuesday, the Noise Abatement Society will hand out awards to pioneering British councils. But, Stewart reports, only two governments – China and Hong Kong – have undertaken comprehensive programs.

In Britain, if anything, political interest has waned. The Labour government repeatedly promised to publish a consultation document on a national noise strategy, but never did so. Three years ago, the Lords passed a Bill to restrict piped music, but it was not taken up in the Commons. And the EU’s record is little better: it has neither carried out a comprehensive assessment of what the hazard costs people and society, nor set targets for its reduction – as it has with, for example, air pollution. One way or another, it is time to make a lot more noise about noise.

As the Boom Car Business Booms, Prepare to go Insane: Bad Noise

You know that feeling, that deep seated anger and helplessness you feel when a boom car pulls up next to you at the 7-11?  You’re just trying to put gas in the tank and get on with your day, when all of a sudden the pavement beneath your feet shakes, and your stereocilia – you know, the bundle of fibers in the inner ear hair cell that mechanically responds to vibration –  gets so stressed, you’re going to spend the rest of your life struggling with tinnitus just because you stopped for gas.

But  the kids in the boom car are oblivious to your pain. Apparently, they’re enjoying the music at decibel levels that rival those expressed by a jet engine taking off in the parking lot next door. How can they even identify it as music, you ask? It could be the sounds of the End Times, or the first rumblings of a tsunami for all anyone knows. There is no deciphering anything musical, with the exception of that deep, sonic, rhythmic boom, boom, boom that tells you someone was concerned with a beat here.

If you’re not sure where this is going, I’m straying from my usual textbook style blog posts to vent about boom cars, and their menace to society and all things decent.

Don’t get me wrong, I love music, and I love mine loud — louder than is probably safe for my hearing, but not so loud that I can’t hear it. I like to decipher the lyrics and separate the instrumentals, and I believe that if you’ve never listened to Ode to Joy at vibration-causing decibels, you’re missing a spiritual experience of epic proportions. But I digress.

I do this risky music listening business with headphones because I am a considerate human being who does not want to force my need for high volume on anyone else. It’s rude, and dismissive of their space. But my listening habits couldn’t begin to rival the decibel levels of a boom car.

I understand the need to feel great music pulsing through the nervous system, I grew up listening to my music Pete-Townshend-went-deaf-because-it-was-so-loud, loud.  We played our music loud but we didn’t take it to near the drum shattering levels of today’s boom cars – and we’re still going deaf!

It makes you wonder if this generation of youthful boom car riders are going to be getting cochlear implants at age 25 due to their recklessness.

An organization called Noise Free America believes that the U.S. needs to reestablish an office of noise abatement and control. Noise free America believes that noise pollution has reached epidemic proportions, and we’re all going to go insane because of it.

Not really, I made that insane part up, but I do believe boom cars will drive 70 percent of the U.S. population insane, and that’s probably a scientifically provable figure.

The boom car industry is, well, booming and there seems to be no end in sight. Young people do not believe they will ever go deaf, and they don’t care if the rest of us do. Even more horrifying, their cars are integral to their 21st century version of a mating ritual. I can see the attraction  – there can never be conversation, so no need for social skills, demonstrated brilliantly by the unwillingness of boom car owners and passengers to show an iota of consideration to anyone around them. So these couples are made for each other.

The boom car industry has also taken a terrible thing to new levels, in addition to promoting boom cars on the highway – you know, those same highways the rest of us travel? Creating an everyday hazard to society apparently isn’t enough. The boom car industry now underwrites national and international competitions that award those who can produce the loudest sound from their boom car.  Wait, it gets even more incredible.

The boom car industry isn’t creating this monster alone – it has help from stereo companies that create the specialty stereo systems that blast music at outlandish decibels within the small space of a car! And it has help from an entire niche of auto body and electronics companies that build the cars and make them all shiny and pretty and irresistible to young, impressionable people who haven’t experienced the ravages of hearing loss yet, but who are desperate to pick up girls. It’s a lethal combination.  And boom car owners,  most of whom are about old enough to work minimum wage jobs if they’re not up all night trolling in their boom cars for girls, are spending thousands of dollars to get their boom cars ready for these competitions.  Maybe they have excellent paper routes.

According to Noise Free America (NFA), these boom car competitions are called  dB drag racing competitions, and they say that these contests are “not just  ‘boys being boys’ or ‘good clean fun.’” Noise Free America says these competitions create death machines, due to the extreme intensity of sound and the ultra-low frequency levels produced.

Now this is really important – the extreme density of sound and the ultra low frequency levels produced – to sit in some of these boom cars during a sound competition, NFA says, would mean instant death.

“This type of vehicle is reinforced and highly modified to accommodate the massive amounts of amplifiers, sub-woofers, and electrical equipment,” the NFA report says.

The sound produced by some of these monsters is accomplished by remote control. More contestants than you want to know have blown whole ear drums in these competitions, and these are people who are still in their teens and early 20s. Unlike lizard tails, ear drums don’t grow back. Someone should explain this to them.

And, though some of these boom cars are not street worthy, young people who witness these competitions are inspired to go home and build their own boom car to drive on the street. Thus, even more of these hazards are on the road to menace and disrupt the peace and safety of society, and all that we know to be good and decent.

Boom car operators thrive on getting attention and being noticed. The more intense the decibels and the lower the frequency, the more respect and bragging rights they have over their peers – at least until the instant death part happens.

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