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Writing to new MPs about noise

More than half of MP’s arriving in Westminster for the first time this summer are novices. Most of them will probably never have given a thought to noise problems of any sort. It seems timely to write to your possibly new local MP over the next weeks, outlining the many problems caused by noise pollution, especially by piped music. (For facts on the latter please see Pipedown’s Fact Sheet, downloadable from the website.) Point out how piped music affects many of the most vulnerable groups, how unnecessary and often counter-productive is – whether for commercial success or sedating patients Finally, inquire if the MP might be interested in coming to a meeting in the Commons in early October (date TBA) to discuss noise matters. Be polite, pithy and pertinent as always. Any touches of humour to grab and keep the attention of the overwhelmed novice MP are an added bonus!

Morrisons Goes Quieter

Supermarket chain Morrisons has changed its shopping rules. The supermarket currently has quiet hours between 9am and 10am on Saturdays, plus the first hour of opening on Sundays. It has now extended its quiet hours to include 2pm to 3pm every Monday to Thursday.

The announcement coincided with World Autism Acceptance Week from April 2 to April 8. The chain declared: ‘The initiative is for people who may struggle with music and other loud noises, for example those who have been diagnosed as autistic.’ Daniel Cadey of the National Autistic Society said: ‘Around 700,000 people are on the autism spectrum in the UK. This means they see, hear and feel the world differently to other people, often in a more intense way. Morrisons’ Quieter Hour is a step in the right direction for autistic people who find supermarket shopping a real struggle.’ (A Quieter Hour involves dimming lights, turning piped music and radios off, also making no loud tannoy announcements, plus turning down checkout beeps and other electrical noises.)

This is very good news from a large supermarket chain, not just for those with autism or the many other problems that make people unusually vulnerable to noise, but for everyone who hates piped music. We comprise about a third of the population, according to most surveys. We should quote Morrisons’ move to other chains in arguments and push Morrisons itself to extend their Quiet Hours much further, because most of the time their supermarkets are still cacophonous.

Pipedown’s Facebook page

Vaughan Hill is starting up Pipedown’s Facebook page.. Facebook offers a very useful extra platform for members to spread news and exchange views. It will also alert other concerned people to our existence. (Far more people loathe piped music than know about Pipedown.) If interested, contact Pipedown and we will put you in touch with him. We may later launch a Pipedown WhatsApp group.

Noise and Soundscape Plan for Wales 2023 to 2028

`The Welsh government has released a draft plan for Wales which looks at almost all aspects of noise pollution.

The plan looks at many forms of noise, from onshore wind turbines to heat pumps and road traffic, examining the ill effects of mechanical noise on, for example, children’s development and the potential benefits of natural noises, such as water, birdsong and wind. The one major omission seems to be piped music, which has somehow escaped notice. See Noise and Soundscape Plan for Wales 2023-2028GOVWALES for details.

Do write in to protest at this omission.

The Open Consultation period closes on 2nd October 2023.

Noise and the Law — a new book

Noise and the Law  is the title of a new book authored by Prof Francis McManus, UKNA’s legal expert, and Andy McKenzie, published by Edinburgh University Press. Normally priced at £60, there is a 30% discount if bought at the Book Launch on Tuesday 23 May in London. If interested in attending, please contact John Stewart johnstewart2@btconnect.com

A deafened generation?

A whole generation of young people are facing a future half-crippled by hearing loss due to listening to excessively loud music through headphones and at concerts. A new report says that unsafe listening practices are ‘highly prevalent’ among young people at rock festivals and night clubs and when listening on personal devices, with 1.3 billion risking their hearing. Analysis of of 33 studies of almost 20,000 people found that one in four young people have ‘unsafe listening’ habits when on their headphones, with one in two endangering their long-term hearing at concerts. Scientists from the Medical University of South Carolina estimate that 23.8% of 665 million young people are risking their hearing from listening to music too loud on their headphones. And 48.2% or 1.35 billion people world wide are harming their hearing from listening to loud music at public venues.

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Soundprint and Mumbli launch new app.

Hearing wellness brand Mumbli has joined forces with sound level crowdsourcing app SoundPrint to help give pubs, restaurants, shops etc ways to improve the acoustics better to please customers. As they put it:

‘Data crowdsourced from 1,350 venues by SoundPrint has shown that 50% of London restaurants have noise exceeding 80 decibels (dBA) during peak times – comparable to welding noise. About 80% of the venues have been found to be too loud for conversation.

Mumbli has found some venues are losing £20,000 in revenue every month due to excess noise, giving potential customers no choice but to move to a quieter place better suited to socialising.

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‘A kind of meditative peace.’

Newly published research in Australia (in The Conversation 10 November 2022) explores how ‘quiet hours’ in supermarkets, when noise from many sources, from piped music to handryers, and other sensory overloads such as flickering lights are turned off, affected people. It looked especially at people who are ‘neurodivergent’, a term which covers people with autism and ADHD, but the findings apply to others too.

‘The idea behind “quiet hour” shopping is to set aside a time each week for a retail experience that minimises noise and other sources of sensory overload…What began as a boutique or specialist retail strategy has become more mainstream. Major supermarket chains and shopping centres in Australia and overseas have introduced it in recent years. In newly published research we explored quiet hour as an aspect of the impacts of sound on how people experience city life. As expected, we found it did benefit people who are neurodivergent. But other people also welcomed the relief from sensory overload once they’d overcome the feeling of having wandered into an eerily quiet “post-apocalyptic scene”. 

Our work has made us question the acceptance of urban noise and light as being part and parcel of a vibrant city. Take the case of New Zealand actress and author Michelle Langstone. She reports visiting stores across Auckland and Rotorua that offer quiet-hour shopping. She stumbled upon it by “sheer luck”. At first, she admits, it felt “a bit like a post-apocalyptic scene”. Once she adjusted to the unfamiliar sensory environment, she felt herself succumbing to changed supermarket routines. Langstone also reports avoiding impulse buying. That first time she left with “only [the] bread and eggs” she had gone to the shop for. She was able to focus on shopping rather than “multi-tasking”, and quiet hour left her with a “feeling of goodwill towards all shoppers… I cruised every single [aisle], taking in the quiet for nearly 45 minutes, at the end of which I felt a kind of meditative peace come over me.”

Source: Sage Journals, October 26, 2022 ‘The sonic framing of place: Microsociology, urban atmospheres and quiet hour shopping’ by Eduardo de la Fuente and Michael James Walsh. Available on-line, paywall.