Posts Tagged ‘noise’

Who let the dogs shout

This week the New York Daily News brings us the story of two Upper East Side dachshunds with the honor of bringing home the most animal noise citations of any household in the city last year.  After being warned, the pups’ owner had to cough up a total of $245 for the citations—and no word of what their tally might be so far in 2010.

Interestingly, the “most animal noise citations” for these dogs came to a grand total of: two citations!  Last year, the city Department of Environmental Protection issued only 22 citations for animal noise citywide, despite logging over 5,900 animal noise complaints to 311 that precipitated over 1,200 inspections.

Updated and expanded in 2007, section 24-235 of the New York City Noise Control Code prohibits owners from allowing animal noise to be “plainly audible” in another residence for more than 10 continuous minutes between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and more than 5 continuous minutes between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.  Of course, for a citation to be issued, a DEP inspector needs to be present and witness the 5 or 10 minutes of continuous barking in person, which may explain the disparity between the number of inspections and actual citations: never a barking dog when you need one!

[via Gothamist]

Clean, green, noise machines

Those big, graceful wind turbine power plants dotting the countryside may be a great source of clean power, but they can also represent a source of noise and annoyance to their immediate neighbors.  In a quiet rural area, the whoosh-whoosh noise of a large turbine (some exceeding 300 feet from ground to wingtip) can be audible thousands of feet away.  Several recent epidemiological studies have shown that annoyance from wind turbine noise is greater than that from other environmental sources (such as highways) at an equal noise level.  This discrepancy is likely influenced by unrelated factors (e.g. blocked views), but the continuing push for green energy requires an equal effort to research wind turbine noise and its impact on the health of people nearby.

We recently published the results of a detailed wind turbine noise study in the peer-reviewed acoustics journal Acta Acustica, in conjunction with our colleagues at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. We approached the disparity in annoyance by starting at the source: investigating the accuracy of methods for predicting the noise from a wind turbine in the first place.  Such methods are the basis for designing and regulating wind turbine sites, but necessarily simplify complex factors such as wind and temperature influence on sound.

After an extensive campaign of hundreds of field measurements (in the beautiful Skåne countryside) and days of computer simulation, we found that at a relatively short receiver distance, wind and similar factors were not significantly affecting the sound transmission path—the turbines are simply too tall for wind to influence levels nearby on the ground.  Instead, wind and temperature fluctuation influence the amount of noise generated at the turbine itself, and may do so in ways that aren’t always accounted for in current prediction methods.  As always, further research is needed!

Wind turbine

Wind turbine noise measurement in Skåne, southern Sweden

Too much noise? No, too little silence

In a recent op-ed piece for the New York Times, author and silence activist George Prochnik eschews ranting about noise in favor of cultivating “a passionate case for silence.”  Prochnik (whose recent book “In Pursuit of Silence” further explores this theme) suggests that doom-and-gloom about noise and its well-documented health effects may be losing traction with a public weary of “self-compassion”.  Indeed, despite noise being the number one environmental complaint in New York City year after year, last week’s International Noise Awareness Day offered its hometown little more than free hearing tests behind City Hall.

Prochnik’s perspective is an intriguing one, and he finds promise in efforts to integrate “oases of quiet” into the urban soundscape.  Referencing Swedish research on urban environmental noise (to which we have directly contributed), he reminds us that noise control efforts that are nearly futile along busy urban streets can rather create truly quiet, healthful “quiet sides” in backyards and courtyards between buildings.

Of course, this approach is neither Swedish nor new— pre-war neighborhoods in Manhattan are chock full of residential buildings boasting sheltered courtyards—but Prochnik reminds us that this luxury is not often afforded to residents of disadvantaged areas.  Not to mention, courtyards that may have provided a quiet oasis in pre-air-conditioning days now carry the modern acoustical burden of concealing scores of unsightly air-conditioning units—often giving these New York City courtyards the irony of being as noisy as the streets they defend against.

Keep this quiet: Wednesday is International Noise Awareness Day

April 28 is the 15th annual International Noise Awareness Day, an event promoting awareness of the dangers of long-term exposure to noise.  Founded by the Center for Hearing and Communication (a not-for-profit organization established in New York in 1910), the event aims to raise awareness of the impacts of noise on day-to-day life worldwide.

As part of the event, the public is encouraged to observe a “Quiet Diet” — 60 uninterrupted seconds without noise from 2:15 to 2:16 p.m. this Wednesday.

Most New Yorkers are all too familiar with excessive noise and its impacts on hearing, health, stress, and learning. This year’s event has already garnered some local press, and we hope that greater awareness of noise leads to a “quiet diet” that the city can enjoy more than once a year.

Tiny ears, big concern

As professional listeners, acousticians are trained in the dangers of noise-induced hearing loss, which is both cumulative over the years and basically irreversible.  Still, nearly anyone with ears understands that loud noise is bad for hearing, and has probably felt the after-effects of noise exposure after a rock concert or a night out.  But what about people too young to understand, or to recognize the physical sensations caused by overexposure?

This week, the New York Times examines the need to protect babies and young children from overexposure to noise.  Noise that is uncomfortable to an adult can be physically damaging to a child, whose smaller ears receive sound pressure with greater impact and sensitivity.  Protecting young ears usually requires earmuff-style protectors, since earplugs are ill-fitted to small ears (not to mention a choking hazard).

The article overlooks the danger of noise exposure from mass transit (including the hometown New York City Subway).  Subway noise levels at the platform can exceed 100 decibels near a curved track or express train—a level that will damage even adult hearing with frequent exposure.  Parents that frequently use the subway with their children should take steps to protect them from noise, since even slight hearing damage as a child will be carried for a lifetime.

Noise-reducing city canyons

After a nearly two-year editorial process, we are happy to announce that we’ve recently published a technical paper in the peer-reviewed acoustics journal Applied Acoustics.  Performed in cooperation with our acoustic colleagues at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, the research explores what happens to noise as it travels over the city canyons formed by streets and backyards between rows of buildings—such as those common in New York City.

Although the details are rather technical, the bottom line is that these canyons reduce noise—so the more street canyons between you and that noisy highway, and the wider these canyons are, the quieter the noise will become.

This field of acoustics research helps to improve the acoustic models that acousticians and city planners use to predict noise.  Implemented in software, these models can map out how traffic and new development will impact the soundscape of a property, a neighborhood, or even an entire city.