January 26, 2002

 

Noise

written by
Lynn Trenning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

aired on WFAE, January 26, 2002

I was at the airport, fantasizing about how to disable one of those little carts that go beep, beep, beep, when I read that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 5.2 million American children have lost some degree of their hearing. Suspected causes include rock music, fireworks and lawn mowers. Let me add to the list droning televisions, garbage trucks traveling in reverse, construction vehicles that pound metal supports into the ground, gas stations that play bad music while you pump, and the bass from the car stopped next to me at a red light.

Toys make noise and we have lots of them. Muffler free devices powered by electricity, batteries and fossil fuels whine, roar and whimper indoors and out, from dawn til dusk. Multiple televisions blare from the corners of restaurants and bars, alleviating the need for conversation, and causing strained vocal chords to those who try. If the T.V. doesnít get you, the jukebox or Muzac will. Malls broadcast hallway music, the individual stores broadcast whatever band suits their theme, and in addition, one local shopping center punctures this din with the sound of a fully engaged NASCAR racetrack. I was under audio assault.

Dinner on my screen porch is interrupted weekly by the thump thump thump of either medical helicopters zooming to an accident, or news helicopters eager to report the weather directly above my house. There seems to be no public etiquette for lawn work. Whether it is weed whackers in front of restaurants during the lunch hour, leaf blowers interrupting playdates at the park, or lawn mowers blaring during supper, it appears that louder is better. And when the tools are turned off, the neighborsí barking dogs are still on.

Night is interrupted by the midnight maniac who, while engineering the freight train that runs behind my house, competes with himself for the longest single horn blow; curiously safety conscience at the expense of common sense. These days even the library is abuzz with ringing cell phones.

Last October I was deep in the maple-tinted woods of Vermontís Green Mountains. I was five miles into a deep forest hike, when I heard a faint buzz. As the trail spun round the mountain the buzz grew to a roar, and there I was, in the middle of nature, where I hadnít seen anyone but my hiking partner for hours, and the sound of a chain saw was clear as a roommateís snore. Like the hikers who have trekked to the depths of the Grand Canyon, only to be interrupted by the buzz of a touristís low-flying plane, I felt both outrage and sorrow.

Children are bombarded with noise from an early age. If it isnít the chaotic chatter of the school lunchroom, or the frenzied buzz of the school bus, itís the too loud earphones in the backseat of the car that allows a child to listen to songs from Barney while his parents listen to NPR. While loss of hearing can be devastating, I wonder what else is being lost. Iíve read that intolerance to noise is a sign of intelligence. I like the sound of that.

~ Lynn Trenning

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