Hoot if you hate noise pollution! (1)

Sounds can soothe and calm, remind us of good times, be pleasing or entertaining such as birdsong, crashing waves, rustling leaves, music and the spoken word.

But sounds, when they become ‘noise’, are “the most impertinent of all forms of interruption … a disruption of thought” (2) and may be a source of irritation and stress. Noise may ‘block’ what we don’t want to hear or think about, cause sleep disturbance or interfere with an individual’s right to peace and quiet at home.

Judging by the proliferation of muzak and of earphones with wires dangling to MP3’s or mobile phones, “an inability to stay quiet is one of the most conspicuous failings of mankind (3).”

Veteran rocker Pete Townshend blames his hearing loss on a lifetime spent using headphones and experts say today’s iPod Generation is storing up trouble for the future by listening to music at high volumes for periods of an hour or more a day. Royal National Institute for the Deaf found 42% of 18 to 24-year-olds admitted they thought they had the volume too high – possibly because they’re using headphones in a noisy environment and they crank up the volume to drown out extraneous sounds.

After a noisy concert you may have experienced the ear-ringing effect where sounds seem temporarily dulled, muffled or quieter than normal. This “temporary threshold shift” that can last for some time afterwards may be alright once in a while (4) but if the ears aren’t allowed to rest between such bouts of concentrated noise, there is irreparable damage to ‘the microphones’; the hair cells in the inner ear, which results in a loss of hearing. This is compounded by the natural ageing process of those hair cells which deteriorate from birth.

Ears, like the rest of your body, need a break from the stress of noise. Not being a fan of ‘whale’ music and recorded sea sounds, I choose my music carefully to accompany treatments, or silence if a client prefers. I see this as an important part of an holistic therapy. “True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment”(5)

(1) Seen on a bumper sticker
(2) Arthur Schopenhauer
(3) Walter Bagehot
(4) Jonathan Parsons, British Academy of Audiology.
(5) William Penn

‘Southwell Life’ – March 2007

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