The Role Played by Businesses

Follow the money

High levels of sound are profitable for some kinds of business. It is used to generate adrenalin and excitement in performance spaces, a sense of popular participation in bars, restaurants and other social venues, enhance the engrossed feeling of ‘being there’ in a singular experience such as a movie house or video game, and being in control of your acoustic environment with ear phones.

Car, pickup truck, personal motorized water, snow and land vehicle manufacturers promote ‘performance’ mufflers and ‘boom boom’ sound systems designed to make intimidating and sickening noise…and give a sense of power and accomplishment to those inflicting the noise. Thus equipped and authorized, noise bullies have many opportunities to disturb the enjoyment of our public and personal spaces life with impunity.

Zumba, aerobics and other workout classes are accompanied by boom-boom sound tracks well above safe levels. Some bars enhance their ‘buzz’ by playing a recording of a noisy full house. Many restaurants use hard surfaces to generate buzz.

Professional sports entrepreneurs push fan participation by urging spectators to ‘MAKE NOISE” and playing deafening sound tracks. Recently Kansas City Chiefs fans broke Seattle Seahawks’ fans’ record of having the loudest outdoor stadium by creating 142.2 decibels worth of noise at Arrowhead Stadium. That is the equivalent of a rifle shot at one meter. How much permanent hearing loss did that cause for 40,000 people?

A recent note from a friend read “I am literally in pain when I accompany my husband to a Raptors game. If I wear earplugs everything still seems too loud, but at least I no longer feel that my ears are going to bleed.”

Outdoor music concerts are given special exceptions to municipal noise bylaws. Indoor concerts routinely stun their audiences with ‘awesome’ levels of brain numbing sound.

Seemingly innocuous noise-making toys can damage hearing when held close to a child’s ear. Noise controls would increase the cost of leaf and snow blowers, mowers and other motorized tools.

The proliferation of advertising indicates that providing for hearing aids and services to those who have suffered hearing damage is big business. A pair of state-of-the art hearing aids costs about $5,000.

As taxpayers we directly subsidize those who profit from (or enjoy) damaging sound through the costs imposed on our health system for hearing devices and professional care – as well as through the personal, family and social costs of damaged communications, physiological stress, aggressive behavior, and lost economic productivity.

A Bill was introduced in the Parliament of Canada 20 years ago that would have enabled municipalities to regulate vehicle speeds and noise on their local lakes. A consortium of manufacturers of personal watercraft successfully lobbied to stop the Bill.