Why urban noise has made us angry and ill for eons

The earliest record of a noise complaint goes back 4000 years. Who was to blame, and what can we learn from it? 

November 20, 2023

Howl and whypet in  headphones surrounded by noise
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Christine Evans-Pughe's avatar

Thanks Peter for your insight into the way we humans continue to persecute ourselves with noise! It’s a fascinating point you make about open-plan houses and the use of glass. The ability to escape noise from inside or out, become so much more difficult.

As for headphones, you’e right,the technology is extraordinarily sophisticated these days. The owner of the ‘psych-ops’ karaoke bar (who eschews acoustic mitigation) offered to buy me some headphones to deal with his anti-social noise nuisance. But of course, as I pointed out, that only works if he buys headphones for ALL the people who might come to my house. I was imagining a dinner party where everyone wears huge noise-blocking headphones and conducts conversations by typing into their mobile phones!  Or perhaps everyone speaks in sign language?!

Christine Evans-Pughe - 2023 11 22

A most interesting article about urban noise.  Unfortunately, the prognosis is not good because we humans continue to invent new ways of persecuting ourselves with noise.  Here are a handful: (a) the fashion for wide open spaces in houses, e.g. joining up the lounge and dining room and kitchen, makes of most houses, even very large houses, just one acoustic space where everyone can hear everything; (b) the fashion for very bright sunlight spread through extra-large windows or better still continuous glass on the outside of residential and commercial buildings.  The glass is invariably a less powerful sound blocker than was the much cheaper pasteboard and wood construction, or brick/cement construction.  So this fashion is an option for more noise; (c) the invention of new devices for listening to music and commentary; (d) phones used to be quiet and people spoke into the transmitter in the handset.  Now with smartphones, we hold the phone two feet away and bellow.  I could go on.  There have been advances, also, in technology to protect oneself from noise, e.g. the noise-canceling headphone, but these are still way behind the countless inventors of noise.  We shall have to rely on the council noise officers and ping pong balls!

Peter_G_Moll - 2023 11 21

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