Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 29, 2014

Forum: Acoustic trash in a hard-of-hearing world

Am I the only one who’s bothered by noise?

Sometimes it seems that way.

If some guy isn’t speeding past my house on a motorcycle without a muffler, somebody else is lighting fireworks, or popping off rounds from a high-powered rifle.

Wherever I go, horns are honking, tires are squealing and radios are blaring. I hear whistles, bells and chain saws. Even a quiet snowshoe outing in northern Michigan was marred by snowmobiles racing through the trees.

Mother Teresa said, “We need silence to be able to touch souls.” I think that’s true. Too much noise is the enemy of deep thought and spiritual renewal. It rattles our nerves and numbs our minds.

Unfortunately, noise is among the most pervasive forms of pollution. It comes from many sources — road traffic, airplanes, jet skis and garbage trucks. Not to mention construction equipment, lawn and garden machinery, and boom boxes. I’ve read that urban noise is doubling every eight to 10 years.

The problem isn’t just that noise is an unwanted assault on the soul. It can damage human health and well-being. Stress, high blood pressure, sleep interruptions and lost productivity are just a few of the maladies linked to noise pollution.

My father and his stepfather were railroad men on the Michigan Central line. They spent their lives with loud steam and diesel locomotives. “Grandpa Steve” was the first to become “hard of hearing,” as the old folks said. Now my dad — as well as many of his retired co-workers — are in the same shape. And lately I’ve been traveling down the same set of rails — probably due to lawn and garden equipment, former factory jobs and perhaps my own brief stint on the Penn Central Railroad.

Hearing loss is common in a noisy world. And, of course, it’s one of the dubious perks of aging.

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