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.

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6 thoughts on “WOULD YOU TURN THAT DOWN?!!

  1. I was happy when I saw a few years ago that New York City passed an updated noise code. Though I can’t say it seems to have any effect on daily life, I do think it was an important step.

    I am convinced that 20 years from now “second-hand sound” will be recognized as just as significant a threat to health as second-hand smoke is known to be today!

  2. Brian Flanagan says:

    Piper, I, too, happily dork-out by having a pair of earplugs in my back pocket at all times–well, save for the times they are in my ears. I also have gone so far as to get noise-reducing headphones, so I’m able to listen to podcasts, music, or a recorded lecture at volume that will not cause me craziness. It is in no way meant to be a fad, but I have to think that when I see people look at me wearing earplugs when I’m in the subway or a loud bar or at a rock concert (that the hep kids seem to find all the rage nowadays) they chuckle for a moment to themselves and then think “nice earplugs, dork. Man, I sorta wish I had a pair of them.”

    There has got to be a way to make these more accessible at certain staff meetings, too, I’d think. While we know there is a market for them in that environment, it seems to still be a bit of a faux pas to wear them when an organization’s president is speaking. Baby steps . . . baby steps . . .

  3. Jennifer says:

    I’ve always thought the world should come with a mute button, whether it comes to leaf-blowing man (hey! it’s called a broom!) or drivers booming their music out to the world. I read an interesting book about one man’s quest to find natural silence called One Square Inch of Silence.

    I bring earplugs with me on the rare occasion I’m in a plane, because the miseries of recycled air and crappy seatmates are only compounded by the ceaseless roar of the engine and the inevitable crying babies.

  4. […] while back I wrote about the damage that noise, such as the din in subways, concerts, and spinning classes, does to our […]

  5. […] As a Jew I don’t actually want anything for Christmas, but I do have a year-round wish to turn down the world’s volume knob, as regular readers know from “WOULD YOU TURN THAT DOWN?!!” […]

  6. […] a hair dryer, for example. I wear them when I use my shredder (little machine, big noise) and in spin class (on the increasingly rare occasions that I make it to spin class). Dr. Seidman recommends covering […]

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