Is the world 20dB too loud?

  • Post by Mike Dixson
  • Nov 28, 2012

On The Buses Again

With my last flat move I’ve spending move time on public transport than I have for a long time and, arguably, more time in public too.

I’ve not been in the mood for listening to music so much lately, instead taking to a bit of quiet contemplation on my commute. But the quiet bit is surprisingly hard to find.
External challenges for my inner quiet including the angry wasps in the iPhone/iPod earphones of yoof, the frequent bus full of very loud Italian students who will the whole of the first half of my journey, ferrel children, engine noise, strange whining sound from smaller buses engines, the stop announcements and last, but by no means least the beeping sound that emits when the doors are closing.

That’s quite a smorgasbord of audio pap to content with my own day dreaming inner dialog.


I’ve taken to carrying my Etymotic ear plugs with me lately.
They cut 20dB off of all frequencies evenly.
The thing I’ve noticed though, is at 20dB quieter I can still hear everything I need to, clearly.

I can still perfectly hear the stop announcements, in fact they are still quite loud. I can still hear the beep of the door closing warning, which on the 108 bus is definitely too loud even then.
If I could understand Italian I could catch every word the Italian students say.

Why So Loud Then?

So, the question is, what am I missing out on??
Are we submitted to such outrageously over loud sounds for a reason?

I can understand that those hard of hearing need to know when there stop is coming up, but there’s a visual sign that comes up.

I can understand people need to be aware that the door is closing but does the beep have to be painfully loud?

I’m concerned that acoustic design is not taken into accommodation at all in so many facets of our lives that our hearing is abused day in day out.
The sad thing is that we won’t know what we’ve lost until it’s gone.

Take Care Of Your Ears, And Each Others

As someone who suffers from hearing loss and tinnitus, I strongly urge you to take care of your hearing.

Be aware of sounds that you are regularly subjected to that are too loud.

And be considerate when you are being loud too. Your loudness might not be so loud but noises add up and a few voices can quickly become a chorus of shouting.

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