C.H.O.R.D.S.: Community Health Over-Rides Disruptive Sound

Use ear protection when visiting commons in your town. Sound meter apps help.

Dear President Obama,  Zep Obama

At C.H.O.R.D.S. Community Health Over-Rides Disruptive Sound. Here’s a remembrance of your tribute to Led Zeppelin at the Kennedy Center last month, with Heart’s “Stairway to Heaven” moving Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.

What you may not know is that In “Stairway to Heaven,” Robert Plant is describing the tinnitus of hearing loss resulting from exposure to harmful decibel levels:

“You´re head is humming and it won´t go in case you don´t know

The piper’s calling you to join him,

Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know

Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.”

Damage from Harmful Noise lasts a lifetime. Once hearing is damaged or lost there is no reversal for these conditions.

In downtown Columbia MD, 30 miles from the White House, as in many towns around the world, excessive noise levels erupt from speakers in and around our restaurants, movie theatres, and shopping mall. From April through October, one outdoor concert venue of 15,000 individuals sends out 95 to 110 dB’s from a structure built in 1967 to house the National Symphony, bouncing Disruptive Sound off thermal inversions for miles and miles. Zep Obama familyHarmful Noise causes pain in the nervous system, the severity of which depends on intensity and length of exposure. Generating tinnitus and hearing loss, sleep interruption, and chronic stress, it raises men’s heart attack risk by 50%; women’s, by 300%. Babies develop digestive problems and inhibited language development. An autonomic response is to crave carbohydrates and overuse alcohol, prescription medications and recreational drugs.

When EPA funding was cut in 2004, states took on the responsibility for maintaining civil decibel levels. Follow through has been sporadic and ineffective. In May 2012 the Maryland General Assembly passed HB-190, giving local jurisdictions the ability to collect fines up to $10,000. In our county Noise Ordinance both police and the Health Department are named with power to protect citizens, but police will not do so, saying our County Executive gave a “Special Exemption” to the outdoor venue and that they have no jurisdiction to do so in the movie theatre or local mall.

Health care providers have a “duty to warn” about potential harm to our clients and their families. We have a legal and ethical responsibility to speak up when local leadership allows certain commercial interests to repeatedly send Harmful Noise to our workplaces, marketplaces and homes.

Add ear protection when visiting these common areas in downtown. Use phone apps like Sound Meter to check levels where you go and ask managers to turn it down if you can’t hold a conversation without raising your voice. That means sound levels are over 65 dB which violates the Noise Ordinance and is unhealthy.

Create Vibrancy NOT Vibration

Noise adversely affects general health in the same way as chronic stress by:

  • causing digestive problems,
  • inhibiting language development in children,
  • creating social handicaps,
  • reducing productivity,
  • impairing teaching and learning, and
  • increasing absenteeism, alcohol and drug use, and accidents.[5]

Noise impairs the ability to enjoy one’s property and leisure time and increases the frequency of antisocial behavior.[6]

Noise “adversely affects future generations by degrading residential, social, and learning environments with corresponding economic losses.” [7]

MPP’s proposed legislation HoCo 9-13 contradicts all five priorities of County Executive Ken Ulman’s commitment to “make good government even better”:[1]

  • Public Safety and Education: Noise causes carbohydrate craving, including sugars, white flour products, and alcohol. Piling sand on county parking lots does not cover up this fact. Even if Mr. Ulman had police enforce the current county noise standards, citizens are not adequately protected.
  • Finding Efficiencies Within Government: MPP’s proposed bill opposes Maryland’s HB-190 effective October 2012 which revises the framework for enforcing noise standards for more efficient and cost-effective responses to citizen noise complaints.[2]
  • Exercising Sound Fiscal Management: MPP’s proposed legislation prohibits the County from collecting fines up to $10,000 for noise violations. Fines last season would have recouped much of our police overtime budget deficit of $500K.
  • Protecting Our Environment: MPP’s Harmful Noise interrupts treatments and classes at Four Gates Wellness Center, psychotherapy, psychiatry, insurance offices, and the innovative political image-making firm in our building—only one of Columbia’s 57% professional workplaces.[3]
  • Creating a Healthier and More Vibrant Community:  Vibration is NOT vibrancy. Generating hearing loss, interrupting sleep, and preventing rest and renewal, noise raises men’s heart attack risk by 50%; women’s, by 300%.[4]