With Earth Day approaching, so many of us focus on the physical environment — and rightly so. What we forget sometimes, though, is that itís not just the air, water and soil that suffer the effects of pollution. Equally damaging in our day-to-day lives is the excess of noise that infiltrates our peace of mind and overwhelms our auditory systems.
As a musician and a dog lover, I canít imagine my life without the sounds that fill my days. The music that intertwines me with my piano. My dog Gina grunting with happiness as we play with her pull toy. Even Sanchez growling possessively over the one item he cherishes above all else — his kong.
But when sound becomes noise and it escalates to levels well above what is healthy for our ears or our well being, it becomes noise pollution.
I work with sound researcher Joshua Leeds on creating music for dogs, and I’ve also learned a great deal from him on how humans perceive sound. Joshua says, “We take in sound through our ears, where it is then changed into electro-chemical impulses that are sent to the brain. Interestingly, we also perceive it through our skin.” That is why Evelyn Glennie, an exquisite percussionist who is deaf, performs barefoot. She says her hearing loss actually improves her musical ability, rather than it being a detriment.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB). To understand this measurement, let us take the simple conversation between two people into account. According to Noise Pollution Facts: A Dummy’s Guide, if they are talking in relaxed tones, the sound is close to 60 decibels; if they whisper, the sound measures barely 30dB. If, however, the people start shouting at each other, the decibel level increases a magnitude of 100 times, up to 80 dB.
Next: What Noise Levels Cause Harm to the Human Ear?