The CALM Act. Sounds sort of Zen, maybe even a little flaky for Congressional legislation. But CALM, or the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, is a significant recognition of a health risk few take seriously: noise-induced hearing loss.
You have probably noticed that the volume of television commercials is louder than the volume of the shows they interrupt. The CALM Act (which has passed the House and Senate, but has a few more legislative hurdles before it reaches the President) would require commercials to broadcast at the same volume as television shows and no louder.
On the Internet the comments about this legislation are leaning towards the dismissive, but noise is not trivial. In non-industrialized societies older people have significantly better hearing than older people in industrialized societies because they have endured less noise. In other words, the noise around us is making us deaf.
For instance, just 30 minutes on the New York subway can be enough to cause hearing damage. Add to that the MP3 player turned way up so it can be heard above the subway din, and multiply it by two rides a day for the average commuter. Then there are power tools, traffic, and music — in bars, at concerts, and even in spinning classes at gyms, where people pay for cardiac health with future hearing loss.
I carry ear plugs everywhere. I use them on the subway, in gym classes, in movie theaters, and at bars. Usually I can still hear well enough to converse, and when I can’t, the people without ear plugs probably can’t hear each other either. I may look silly, but I walk away without a headache from the noise or a sore throat from shouting.
Television commercials aren’t the biggest culprit in the assault on our ears, but Congress’s acknowledgement that noise pollution causes hearing loss and that it is worthy of federal attention is a quiet though welcome step forward. I hope there will be more progress on and awareness of this issue so that I won’t be the only one who can carry on a conversation at the nursing home.