On Noise Pollution

Julie - Seattle, Washington
Entered on December 10, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65

This is an alarm – not a loud ringing, rather words for peace and quiet. I believe it is time to turn down the noise pollution. It’s contributing to stress, loss of hearing, and conflict between people and animals. Unchecked, it could be lethal. Already, noise may be contributing to the endangerment of whales.

Songs whales use to communicate, orient, and find mates (think reproduction) are drown out by human-made noises from commercial shipping to military sonar. The Seattle Times reports Cetaceans are losing touch with each other. “Call it a cocktail-party effect,” said Mark Simmonds, a whale and dolphin conservationist, “you have to speak louder and louder until no one can hear each other anymore.’” I avoid cocktail parties, but I cannot shut out THE NOISE.

I’ve never worn a Save the Whales t-shirt, but after moving to Seattle from a rural area, I’m paying attention to new things. Sure, as a mother of music-loving teenagers, noise disturbed me before, but my kids learned to “turn it down” or use headphones. When my son, at age twenty, experienced sudden idiopathic hearing loss, I wondered – could I have done anything to prevent it? It’s hard to say. Hearing loss from recreational and occupational noise exposure is 100 percent preventable. The nature of my son’s type of loss means the causes are unknown. Was it the headphones?

The purchase of a coffeemaker was the final jolt. Now, I’m speaking out for the elimination of unnecessary noise. I want city planners and others to care about noise reduction for a more peaceful Sound.

On most mornings, my husband rouses me with the aroma of coffee since I don’t hear the alarm. To sleep, I place a pillow over my head to drown out the whooping night lifers, the booze bottles breaking as they’re transferred from the dumpster to recycling truck, the motorcycles, trains, jets, and the trucks going in reverse – ding, ding, ding.

The morning my husband used our new coffeemaker, I awoke to a rude electronic rooster. Beep, beep, beep, beep. The manufacturers included an end of the brew cycle alarm to let us know, “Coffee’s ready.” Just because they could. It may benefit people with impaired olfaction, but seriously, who needs a coffee alarm?

Auto alarms – honk, honking horns, cell phones ring, sirens assault. Even my refrigerator beeps seconds after opening the door. Cumulative cacophony – our world is just too beeping noisy.

We need to, and I daresay can, choose and design our sounds wisely. To reduce gas consumption, I use a Prius. Its engine may be too quiet for people with blindness, who like cetaceans, rely on sounds. I want a sound balance so we don’t lose touch with each other. Waiting in line at the bank, for example, I can’t initiate casual conversation because people now wear noise canceling, music making headphones. It makes it hard to be neighborly. I’m worried. What if people don’t hear me shout, “We’re being robbed.”