This is the second installment in our 2-part article. Last week, we examined situations where we voluntarily invite noise into our lives. This week, we’ll be looking at situations where noise is forced upon us.
Noise Forced Upon Us
By J. D. Rider
In this world, loud noises can intrude on our lives like uninvited guests, eluding our control while bringing potential danger. There are many sounds to watch out for. Toys can be a threat, like the horrifying train horn gun. Popular, though dangerous, it’s a gag device that has gained the love of many. It’s a handheld gun — made by modifying an impact drill with an electric air horn compressor kit — whose deafening roar emulates a train. Milwaukee’s gun, for example, is purportedly 130 dB, almost as loud as a firearm (Stewart, Michael. “Recreational Firearm Noise Exposure.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2023).
One of the top hits when searching for sellers of train horn guns — impacttrainhorns.com — advertises their products as “…perfect for your kid’s sporting events, scaring family and friends, around the job site, and much more!” At the time of this article, no warnings about the risks of developing hearing disorders were included on their website, nor were recommendations to wear hearing protection while using their product.
Disney’s “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” featured a segment where the titular hero met the wrath of an air horn. At close range, its deafening roar was blasted into her ear, shaking her awake. It was played as a comedic moment, which set some dangerous precedents: to think that anyone would try that is beyond unnerving; and to think it’s all just fun and games (to play with such a dangerous device) is a tragic misconception. Painting that message is irresponsible.
In the past, the fact that this could summon damage made national headlines, even. Cindy Redmond, a 14-year-old girl in Wilmington, Delaware, was assaulted with an air horn at close range when she disobeyed her friend’s stepfather. She was talking on her cellphone at the kitchen table, despite his request for her to stop, which prompted him to blast her with the sordid noise. This caused extensive damage to her hearing and hyperacusis set in, changing the entire trajectory of her adolescence (Cohen, Joyce. “14-Year-Old Girl Blasted with Air Horn Speaks Out: ‘I Feel Like I’m Being Stabbed in the Ear.’” PEOPLE, 22 Dec. 2017).
Fireworks also present an unsuspected danger. They can reach excessive levels, between 120-170 dB, louder than a jackhammer or plane taking off (Maure Lorre, Rose. “How to Block Fireworks Noise for Adults, Kids, and Pets.” The New York Times, Wirecutter, 23 Jun. 2022). While professional firework displays pose less of a threat due to their controlled environment, people — especially children — are more at risk in private settings. One of the main reasons for that is simple — a desire to be closer to the activity is easily achieved, which increases the dB exposure level significantly (CBS Miami Team. “Hearing Damage Often Overlooked When Thinking About Fireworks Safety.” cbsnews.com, 28 Jun. 2022). Earplugs or ear muffs should be standard wear for any gatherings involving fireworks. In addition, fireworks should never be used to play practical jokes on someone.
The leaf blower is a common tool used for pranks. Videos have gone viral, like one where a husband blasted his wife while she brushed her teeth. Such dangerous antics can invite disaster. At close range, the noise can be 95 to 115 dB (Fenn Lefferts, Jennifer. “In the war vs. loud leaf blowers, a strategic retreat.” The Boston Globe, 29 Mar. 2015).
The aforementioned hazards are just a few in a world rich with sounds. Knowing all this, it would be great practice for adults and children alike to exercise caution when it comes to noise that’s seemingly innocuous. It could prevent a substantial loss to one’s quality-of-life. Contrary to popular beliefs, hearing disorders can lead to intractable ruin.