HOSPITAL NOISE has long been one of our chief concerns, so it is most encouraging to hear that it is finally receiving proper attention in medical circles. Dr David Oliver, a doctor unusually concerned with issues facing older patients, writes in the British Medical Journal for 27 April that noise in hospitals is indeed a major issue. ‘Hospital wards are meant to be therapeutic and healing environments, so we need more concerted action to tackle noise pollution in wards. Being surrounded by a cacophony of noise doesn’t help patients get better, and it’s not a nice environment for staff to work in. On a recent ward round, in one five bedded bay I found myself turning off radios next to three of the patients so that I could chat to them. They told me that they weren’t listening to the music anyway: “Leave it off!” they said, when I offered to switch it back on. And it’s not just music from the radio—there are multiple sources of noise: beeping devices with alarms that are often ignored (though they’re nominally there to prompt action); noisy patient call buttons and ward entry intercom bells; ward phones, often ringing unanswered; loud lids on metal waste bins; rattling cage trolleys full of ward supplies; dispensers for hand towels or aprons; staff pagers and phones; sometimes overloud conversations from staff in the course of their job or from visitors at bedsides; teams responding to emergencies; and—though they should never be blamed—other patients in distress or calling for help. Of course, noise annoys, but it’s more than an irritant. Sleep is crucial to recovery, yet so many of our patients complain of sleep disturbance in hospital. Numerous people have told me that noise was what they dreaded most about hospital admission or the reason they self-discharged. On any ward round some patients complain to me about it. A high proportion of inpatients have hearing loss or cognitive impairment. Background noise impairs communication and can be especially bad for patients with hearing aids or presbycusis. Whether in intensive care or more general ward areas, delirium is prevalent in hospital3—and multiple, alien, noises and voices can compound it.
Patients prone to sensory overload, for instance, and some with autistic spectrum disorder or a learning disability, can be especially upset by noise. Those with dysphonia, dysarthria, or dysphasia or for whom English isn’t their native language, or those who are sick or dying, can struggle to communicate with staff or visiting families above the noise. And, let’s face it, noise levels are also an irritant to many patients who don’t have those problems and to staff working there every day who can’t always hear themselves speak or think, let alone hear colleagues properly. Studies on intensive care wards have even found that decibel meters showed higher noise levels on wards than on busy main roads. What we lack is a concerted effort to move from awareness of the problem to implementing serious, sustained solutions. We’ve ignored the noise pollution problem for too long and grown too comfortable with accepting it. It’s time to do something about it.
· A competition has been launched to let Britain’s noisiest streets benefit from innovative noise camera technology trials. The Transport Secretary aims to ‘banish boy racers’ by encouraging MPs across England and Wales to apply to run trials in their local area.
Antisocial drivers could be fined for revving up engines with illegal exhausts A search for Britain’s noisiest streets has been started by the Department for Transport, with four areas across England and Wales set to trial new phase two technology to help stop rowdy motorists revving engines with illegal exhausts unnecessarily. Since the technology is in design phase, MPs are invited to submit applications to trial new noise cameras in their localities, helping communities to enjoy peace in public and residential spaces. The technology, backed by a £300,000 grant, can automatically detect when vehicles are breaking legal noise requirements, giving police and local authorities the evidence needed to take action against drivers who flout noise laws. Police have existing powers, including the ability to issue fines, but currently have trouble gathering evidence.
The latest phase of noise trials builds on a 3-year programme to perfect the technology. Research shows noise pollution significantly harms physical and mental health for local residents – with heart attacks, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and stress all linked to loud environments. Excessive noise pollution can mean children struggle to get a good night’s sleep and hardworking people’s lives are made more stressful. In England alone, the annual social cost of urban road noise was estimated to be £10 billion a decade ago. This is the total economic cost of exposure to noise pollution, including lost productivity from sleep disturbance and health costs from heart attacks, strokes and dementia. As set out in the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper, complaints about noise are highest among the most economically deprived areas, with those in more disadvantaged areas as much as three times as likely to suffer from noise nuisance. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We want those in Britain’s noisiest streets, who are kept up at night by unbearable revving engines and noisy exhausts, to come forward… to test and perfect the latest innovative technology. For too long, rowdy drivers have been able to get away with disturbing our communities with illegal noisy vehicles. It’s time to clamp down on this nuisance, banish the boy racer and restore peace and quiet to local streets.” The technology being used in the trial can provide real-time reports which police can use as evidence and may result in more targeted and efficient enforcement methods to crack down on noisy motorists. By testing this tech in rural and urban areas, the public can help develop the new road technology. This follows commitments made by the Government to ensure that all parts of Britain have the same powers to deal with noise complaints, including providing them with effective tools for tackling incidents which constitute crime and anti-social behaviour and which can make life a misery for others.
Pipedown has long pushed for a ban on the playing of televisions or music systems in hospitals except through the use of headphones. Nowhere is such noise more inescapable and more harmful than in hospitals, where patients may be literally powerless to escape it. So the latest initiative that comes from a doctor is most welcome.
Dr David Oliver, a Manchester-based doctor, writes in the 27 April issue of the British Medical Journal that noise in hospitals must be tackled. ‘Hospital wards are meant to be therapeutic and healing environments, so we need more concerted action to tackle noise pollution in wards. Being surrounded by a cacophony of noise doesn’t help patients get better, and it’s not a nice environment for staff to work in. On a recent ward round, in one five bedded bay I found myself turning off radios next to three of the patients so that I could chat to them. They told me that they weren’t listening to the music anyway: “Leave it off!” they said, when I offered to switch it back on.
And it’s not just music from the radio—there are multiple sources of noise: beeping devices with alarms that are often ignored ; noisy patient call buttons and ward entry intercom bells; ward phones, often ringing unanswered; loud lids on metal waste bins; rattling cage trolleys full of ward supplies; dispensers for hand towels or aprons; staff pagers and phones; sometimes overloud conversations from staff in the course of their job or from visitors at bedsides; teams responding to emergencies; and—though they should never be blamed—other patients in distress or calling for help. Of course, noise annoys, but it’s more than an irritant. Sleep is crucial to recovery, yet so many of our patients complain of sleep disturbance in hospital. Numerous people have told me that noise was what they dreaded most about hospital admission or the reason they self-discharged. On any ward round some patients complain to me about it.
A high proportion of inpatients have hearing loss or cognitive impairment. Background noise impairs communication and can be especially bad for patients with hearing aids or presbycusis… Patients prone to sensory overload, for instance, and some with autistic spectrum disorder or a learning disability, can be especially upset by noise. Those with dysphonia, dysarthria, or dysphasia or for whom English isn’t their native language, or those who are sick or dying, can struggle to communicate with staff or visiting families above the noise. And, let’s face it, noise levels are also an irritant to many patients who don’t have those problems and to staff working there every day who can’t always hear themselves speak or think, let alone hear colleagues properly. Studies on intensive care wards have even found that decibel meters showed higher noise levels on wards than on busy main roads.What we lack is a concerted effort to move from awareness of the problem to implementing serious, sustained solutions… It’s time to do something about it.
Emily Critchley is starting a campaign against a new menace that is both very noisy and chemically toxic.
She writes: ‘Noisy petrol leaf-blowers, ubiquitous in British gardens these days, are
also super-polluters which exacerbate asthma, a range of cancers and
permanently deform the growing lungs, brains, eyes and ears of children.
Hearing damage begins to occur when someone is around “extended exposure”
to any sound of 85 decibels or higher. Just two hours of operating a leaf
blower, which hits 90 decibels, can cause permanent damage and hearing
loss, even if it’s used at the house next door.
Moreover, the 2-stroke leaf blower is 300 times more polluting than a car for
ozone-causing pollution. Its engine has been banned for every other use
except lawn and road maintenance. Even a newer 4-stroke petrol leaf blower
recently tested emitted 50x more brain-damaging particulate pollutants
than all the engines in a busy intersection of cars at rush hour. This
particulate pollution ends up in our lungs. About 30% of the fuel
(gasoline / oil mix) goes out the exhaust and becomes an aerosol for us to
breath. Many gasoline components are carcinogens (e.g., benzene,
butadiene, formaldehyde). A person operating a leaf blower with its
fuel-laden exhaust is exposed to 10,000 parts per million or more fuel in
Why are we destroying our lungs, as well as our eardrums, when rakes and
brooms do the same job – and leaves on lawns are actively good for the
soil, for flowers, insects and small mammals?
Let’s get this deafening and destructive practice banned!’
Contact Emily Critchley firstname.lastname@example.org
£100 fines are now being imposed for for ear-splittingly noisy cars that break noise laws, according to The Sunday Times.
Vehicles checked by acoustic cameras are sometimes hitting 112 decibels. Councils hope penalty charges will deter the noise-mongers.
Cars have been detected making as much noise on city streets as a jet or helicopter at take-off, threatening those exposed for a long time with many stress-induced health problems including high blood pressure, hearing damage and heart attacks.
Acoustic cameras, installed for the first time across a London borough, have caught 289 motorists driving at more than 100 decibels (dB). The noisiest was a Lamborghini, at 112.9dB The legal limit is 72dBs for cars registered since 2016. Cars registered after 2007 and before 2016 should be no louder than 74dB. Exposure to more than 85dB for extended periods can cause permanent hearing loss. (An increase of 10dB on this logarithmic roughly equals a doubling of noise.)
Between June 2021 and February 2022, almost 10,000 vehicles triggered the cameras by breaking the law at four spots in Kensington and Chelsea. BMW drivers were the most common offenders, followed by Lamborghini, Mercedes, Ferrari, Audi and Land Rover drivers in that order. The scheme was extended across the borough at the end of November.
A similar scheme, which began in Westminster last month, has already caught a motorist hitting 111.1dBs. Both councils issue offenders with fixed penalty notices of £100. (They do not emergency services with sirens and those who had reasonable excuses, such as sounding their horn to prevent a collision.)
Trevor Cox, professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford, said: ‘If you were exposed to these noise levels for a long time in the workplace you would be asked to wear ear defenders…. Noise has not killed as many people as air pollution but there’s increasing documentation of the health effects this creates, with thousands of deaths by cardiovascular disease in the UK each year attributed to chronic stress created by chronic noise problems.’ Pet owners say that their dogs are also badly affected.
City centres at night now attract ‘car meets’, where groups of drivers with modified vehicles gather to perform stunts such as ‘doughnuts’. This involves skidding a car in a circle until the tyres smoke. In January, acoustic cameras installed by Westminster city council and costing about £15,000 each filmed a gathering of 100 cars performing doughnuts close to the Royal Albert Hall in the early hours. The police are investigating.
Cars are not legally permitted to make more noise than on the day they left the factory, yet Dunne says there are many loopholes for those wanting to modify their vehicles. One of the most popular ways is to add a microchip to the engine management system to boost its power and produce loud pops and bangs. ‘There’s a global sub-culture based around noise, partly in reaction against the rise of speed cameras and dash cams. We can all hear it — and we can hear that police have given up on enforcing it.’
New cars are exempt from MoTs for three years. After that, MOT testers are not currently required to measure the noise with a decibel meter but simply listen to the noise.Steve Gosling, director of 24 Acoustics, which provides the noise cameras for the two London boroughs, said there was a longstanding legal loophole that had hindered efforts to curb noise pollution: traffic noise is exempted under the 1990 Environmental Protection Act. ‘There is an enforcement chasm,’ he said. Relief may come by treating noise as a problem of antisocial behaviour. A Kensington and Chelsea councillor, Johnny Thalassites, secured a Public Spaces Protection Order after receiving hundreds of complaints from the public about disturbed sleep, stress and intimidation. He said: ‘It’s not about punishing ordinary people who are trying to get around the city to do their business. If you’re driving in a sensible way, this should not catch you out.’
A poll in The Sunday Times of 6,486 readers found that 89% agreed that councils should do more to clamp down on noisy cars and motorbikes.
After years of wrecked reading and disrupted conversations or snoozes, rail passengers may finally be able to look forward to quieter carriages. Under plans being prepared by the Department for Transport, train operators will have to cut the “endless torrent” of announcements and recorded messages currently sprayed at passengers.
A “bonfire of the banalities” was promised by Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, to reduce the number of redundant announcements played over train loudspeakers, including banal or contradictory messages.
The department will work with passenger groups to decide which can be cut and said that removal would start in the coming months.
However, one rail industry source said that the government does not control what announcements are made by train operators, and that it would be “crazy for it to intervene at that level”. And the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union condemned the department’s proposal as a “PR stunt by this collapsing government”.It said no passengers had complained about receiving too much information [this cannot be true] and it would fight to protect the jobs of people who made the announcements, so revealing its true priorities.
Survey from the US reveals that most people avoid bars and restaurants that are very noisy.
- A survey carried out by the American Tinnitus Association (not merely of people with tinnitus but of those with many types of hearing disability) revealed that 69% of people questioned said they had left bars, restaurants and similar places because of excessive noise. 78&% of these people would not be returning.
- 58% actively avoid restaurants, bars, cafés, gyms and cinemas due to noise problems.
- 66% would go out more if they could rely on finding quiet places.
- These findings come from the United States but they are likely to apply to the UK and many similar countries too.
Thanks to the energy and tenacity of Hilary Browne, who would not be fobbed off by meaningless replies to her emails, both Tesco and M&S have agreed to have Quiet Hours – both have recently reinstalled piped music. For Tesco at present these moments of tranquil sanity are 9-10am on Wednesday and Saturday. Hilary has also managed, after much persuasion, to get the music turned off at her local branch in Middlesborough whenever she shops there. For Marks and Spencer the planned quiet hours are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 8-9 am and between 7-8pm. Marks and Spencer also promised to consider going completely muzak-free in the New Year. Hilary has pointed out that one hour is not enough for a a decent shop and these are all awkward times for most potential customers – early morning hours require driving through rush hour traffic, for example. She is continuing her battle undaunted. Her success shows what can be done by battling on, repeating again and again how piped music especially harms those with hearing disabilities and pleases far fewer people than it annoys. Her message is: don’t be put off by the first lot of replies.
ASDA is also introducing quiet hours and at more convenient times – 2pm-3pm – three days a week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It admits that 80% of the estimated 14 million disabled people in the UK are not visibly disabled. This applies of course to everyone with a hearing problem (16% of the population) and also those with chronic problems such as Aspergers, dishphonia or autism. Such small concessions should encourage us to press for more sweeping proposals, if not this year, certainly next year!
Add your voice to Hilary’s by writing to the relevant CEOs concerned:
for Tesco this is email@example.com
for M&S this is firstname.lastname@example.org
LOUD VOCAL MUSIC IN CARS CAUSES ACCIDENTS
Recent research shows that listening to loud music in cars, especially those with loud sing-along lyrics, can cause some motorists to become ‘mentally overloaded’, increasing the risk of them driving dangerously. This is particularly true in towns, where concentration is even more essential to avoid endangering cyclists or pedestrians. Researchers said drivers should be ‘wary of using loud, lyrical music in urban environments’ because it could ‘elevate levels of activation and even aggression’, particularly in the young. Instead they recommend listening to softer instrumental music, preferably classical. So ‘boom boys’ blasting their way through streets are not only a nuisance but a danger. This may not surprise many but it is good to have it confirmed. The recent study, carried out by academics from universities of Brunel, Coventry, Surrey and King’s College London, found that about 90 per cent of motorists listened to music while driving, with loud music being particularly popular with younger men.