Quiet Communities is proud to announce the launch of The Quiet Coalition, a nationwide community of health and legal professionals concerned with the adverse impacts of environmental noise and the absence of regulations to protect the public. The group is focused on getting policy makers in the U.S. as well as citizens to realize that noise is a burgeoning public health problem in the U.S. The founding chair is Daniel Fink MD, an internist who also serves as interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council.
Unsafe levels of noise pervade our communities – from landscape maintenance, construction, restaurant music, sporting events, sirens, alarms, household appliances, toys and video games, personal listening devices, and air, road, and rail traffic. The sounds are often many times higher than those considered safe.
“The scientific evidence is incontrovertible: noise causes hearing loss and other health problems. We have a responsibility to speak up just as experts did when the dangers of smoking became known,” says Dr. Fink.
Decades of scientific research show that exposure to loud noise causes hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis. Nearly 48 million Americans today suffer from noise-induced hearing loss. While a single acute exposure can damage hearing, the vast majority results from everyday exposure experienced over a lifetime. According to Harvard Medical School’s special report on hearing loss (May 2016):
More often than not…the noise that causes sensorineural hearing loss is not one deafening bang but decades’ worth of exposure to the high-decibel accessories of daily life: leaf blowers, car horns, highway traffic, movie theater sounds, hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, loud music, and so on.
Loud noise also contributes to cardiovascular disease, cognitive and learning problems, psychological stress, sleep disruption, diabetes, and obesity. Researchers estimate more than 100 million Americans are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease because of daily exposure to excessive noise; a 5 decibel decrease in average daily exposure would save close to $4 billion each year from reduced cardiac risk.
In an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health (January 2017) by Daniel Fink, MD, an internist and Founding Chair of The Coalition, he explains that the absence of clear federal noise standards for the public makes the 85 decibel occupational standard the de facto federal standard. This standard has been widely promulgated throughout the internet to describe safe noise limits for products including children’s toys and personal listening devices. “Using the occupational standard without time limits is not appropriate for the public. It increases the number of people who will suffer hearing loss and negative health consequences,” says Fink.
The federal government has done little if anything since the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Noise abatement and Control was abolished during the Reagan administration in 1981 (for detail, see report to the Administrative Conference of the United States). The Coalition will be working to change this. It will invite professional organizations and individuals to call on our health agencies to protect the health and hearing of the public and offer incentives for developing quieter products and services. “Public health policy to protect the nation’s health from environmental noise is long overdue,” says Jamie Banks, PhD, Executive Director of Quiet Communities and Program Director for the Coalition. “We are issuing a call-to-action to prompt federal agencies to address noise as a serious health risk.”