AN EPIDEMIC OF MAN-MADE DEAFNESS?

An epidemic of man-made deafness may be threatening the world. The World Health Organization estimates that 360 million people worldwide already have moderate/profound hearing loss with another 1.1 billion people at risk.  In the UK 11 million people- – one in six – have some form of hearing loss. This proportion could rise to one in five people by 2035.

It has long been known that noise exposure during work, for example among stonemasons and miners, can cause hearing loss. There is no mandated safe noise exposure for the public anywhere in the world. Dr. Daniel Fink, in a paper presented to the Institute for Noise Control Engineering meeting in Providence, RI (USA) on 14 June 2016, discussed the fact that 85 decibels (dBA), widely thought safe for the public, is an ‘industrial strength’ occupational noise exposure standard. (‘Normal’ conversation is around 60 dB while noise from a jet plane taking off 300m away is about 100 dB, or 16 times as loud – the scale is logarithmic, not arithmetic.)

Because little research has been done on noise and hearing loss in normal life, the work standard has been thought safe for the general public. This is almost certainly wrong for two reasons. First, 85 dBA exposure will cause hearing loss in at least 15% of workers exposed to this noise level during their working lives. Second, noise unlike other workplace pollutants, continues outside the workplace. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adjusted the 85 dBA occupational noise exposure level for the additional exposure time – 24 hours a day instead of 8 hours, 365 days a year instead of 240 days at work- to come up with 70 decibels (unweighted) average as the safe environmental noise exposure level to prevent hearing loss.

Dr. Fink writes: ‘Noise exposure…causes auditory damage. Hearing loss is not part of normal physiological aging. In quieter primitive societies, auditory acuity is preserved into old age.’ He draws useful analogies between tooth loss and hearing loss. Both used to be accepted as a ‘normal’ part of ageing, so that by their mid-60s many people were almost toothless. Today, thanks to better dental care most older people keep their teeth. Dentures work but natural teeth work better. Similarly, needing hearing aids in old age is not normal either. And hearing aids are no substitute for preserved hearing. Hearing aids do not correct hearing in the same way that glasses correct faulty vision, because hearing loss involves irreparable nerve and sensory organ damage in the inner ear.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention on 16 May 2016 recommended only 70 dB average noise exposure for the public with only one hour noise exposure at 85 dB.  This recommendation, as it becomes widely known, should revolutionise overall attitudes towards noise. Noise is like secondhand tobacco smoke: not just a nuisance but a major health hazard causing hearing loss, tinnitus and many other health problems.

(A fuller version of this with supporting footnotes is available on request.)

‘Speak Easy’ Campaign launched by Action on Hearing Loss

Action on Hearing Loss (formerly the RNID) has launched its Speak Easy Campaign, aiming to make it easier for people with or without  hearing loss to talk in restaurants, pubs and cafés. After surveying 1,500 people  with or without  hearing loss, they found that 76% of respondents said they would visit restaurants, pubs and cafés  more often if noise levels were lower, 80% said they have left a place early because of noise levels and 91% said ‘they would not return to a venue they considered too noisy’.

The charity is looking at many aspects of noise reduction. This includes making decors more sound absorbent. Today, due to the current fashion for ‘hard’ industrial style surfaces, the decor in many places reflects and increases noise rather than reducing it. Piped music remains much the biggest single source of needless and unwanted noise in most places (the hubbub of general conversation is after all a sign of a genuinely popular pub/café/restaurant.). Pipedown is collaborating with AHL on this campaign. So spread the word about their timely  initiative   https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/SpeakEasyReport

FIRST LOCAL CHAPTER OF PIPEDOWN USA FOUNDED

Elizabeth Hunter of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has just launched a local US chapter of Pipedown, and has held her first meeting. She welcomes support from across the USA and Canada, but especially in her region, as she stresses that she aims to focus on regional problems. Do contact her at zetlir@gmail.com if you live nearby.

If you live anywhere near Colorado, contact Charles Wetherbee, the renowned violinist, who is thinking of starting a chapter of Pipedown in his part of the world. charles.wetherbee@colorado.edu

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Post a note about a place’s muzac-free/muzac-fouled status on Trip Advisor

With the holiday season now starting, many people will glance at Trip Advisor to check up on a hotel or restaurant. If you have recently visited a place free of piped music – or conversely one polluted to the rafters with it – say so clearly and prominently on Trip Advisor. If enough people praise a place for not having piped music, or conversely criticise it for having it, this should encourage the managers concerned to go or to remain muzac-free. All power to the customer!

Click on the link below.

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/

Marks and Spencer stops its piped music!

From Wednesday 1st  June all branches of Marks and Spencer will be free of piped music, following a decision by its executive. ‘We’ve listened to customer feedback, and the licence to play music in all our stores has now been cancelled with effect from 1st June 2016′  said Gary Bragg. This decision, which will save Marks and Spencer money, is the result of years and years  of determined campaigning by Pipedowners and other people, who have refused to be fobbed off with bland dismissals. Marks and Spencer remains the UK’s biggest chain store, a national institution. So this is a great day for all campaigners for freedom from piped music.

Millions of customers will be delighted by this news. So will thousands, probably tens of thousands, of people working in M&S who have had to tolerate non-stop music not of their choice all day for years. Congratulate the management, especially the new CEO Steve Rowe,  by emailing M&S at chairman@customersupport.marksandspencer.com

Now we can shop in peace!

JOIN THE HAPPY FEW!

A new inner group of Pipedowners is being set up to campaign more vigorously. It aims to recruit a smallish number of members who have the time and energy to respond rapidly  whenever alerted to a new issue, threat or opportunity. By emailing or tweeting  concertedly, even small numbers of us can have a real impact.  If you are interested in joining the Happy Few  (and also a member),  contact Pipedown at newpipedown@btinternet.com   All email addresses will be treated as confidential.

Congratulate Steve Rowe head of M&S on giving up its muzac, and ASDA on its Quiet Hour Experiment

 

Steve Rowe has just become the new CEO of Marks and Spencer. He has marked his new approach by announcing that from 1st June all branches will be stopping their piped music. They have ‘listened to customer feedback’ and come to a sane decision. Congratulate him by writing to 

 steve.rowe@marks-and-spencer.com   or try the chairman Robert Swannell robert.swannell@marks-and-spencer.com

The postal address is: Marks & Spencer Group plc, Waterside House, 35 North Wharf Road, LONDON W2 1NW  

And congratulate ASDA, a notoriously muzac-polluted chain. It is experimenting with having one Quiet Hour per week (on Saturday) when all the music, televisions and even escalators will be turned off in one of their Manchester stores for the benefit of autistic customers. Urge them to extend the experiment  to all their other stores and other times, and to consider making such quiet universal (though escalators do need to run.) The person to write to is Andy Clarke andy.clarke@asda.co.uk

New Zealand Pipedown starting up?

Susan Davis is hoping to start up a New Zealand Pipedown. It is very early days yet for the new group so please contact Pipedown UK   newpipedown@btinternet.com  for her e-mail address if you live in – or often visit – New Zealand and would like to be involved. We can then send you her contact details.

And remember: Charles Wetherbee, the renowned violinist, is considering co-founding Pipedown USA. If you live in the USA or Canada and hate piped music, contact him  charles.wetherbee@colorado.edu

 

Halifax & Shropshire local groups starting up

Kenneth Close is starting up a local group based in Halifax (in Yorkshire, not Canada NB.)  Members living in or anywhere near Halifax who are interested can contact him at kc@close22.orangehome.co.uk   (Membership of the group is of course free to Pipedowners.) Yorkshire Pipedowners: join Kenneth Close and start rolling back piped music in Yorks!

 

 

And Phil Fairclough who lives near Telford in Shropshire is also interested in getting a local group up and running. Contact him at  faircloughpatricia@gmail.com if you live in or near Shropshire. 

As the amazing progress of the Quiet Edinburgh & Glasgow group in recent years shows, local groups can make a real impact. They allow members to meet (even if only electronically), discuss local issues and take local action – something Pipedown UK itself cannot do.  By meeting and talking to other Pipedowners living nearby, members realise they are not lone voices but make up a large section of the general population maddened by piped music. Mutual encouragement and support is far more feasible at local, rather than national, level.

 

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Quieter shopping malls: the Birmingham Experiment

The Bullring in Birmingham, home to one of Britain’s largest shopping malls, has been experimenting with quieter music. For years pounding pop music has filled almost every corner and shoppers, of all ages and tastes, have had to tolerate it or leave. Now an experiment by Hammerson, which runs several shopping malls across Britain and is thinking of phasing out music because of its effect on shoppers, has shown that replacing clamourous loud music with softer ambient music – not blended ‘muzak’ but a sound closer to the sea – influences shoppers positively. They move less rapidly and seem to spend more. The results are still tentative but suggest that less noise equals more sales, at least initially. Pipedowners might prefer no background music at all but this sea music is better than, say, canned Vivaldi and certainly an improvement. But it would be interesting to see the effects of no music at all. Julian Treasure, chairman of the Sound Agency, is involved in the experiment.

see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35154100