Johanna Taylor of Action on Hearing Loss (formerly the RNID) writes about its current campaign to make restaurants, cafés and pubs more accessible to people who find background noise and music a problem. ‘Our Speak Easy campaign is asking venues to take noise off the menu. We launched in July 2016 with a research report and a guide advising the industry on how to improve acoustics. Unsurprisingly, we found that eight out of 10 people have left an establishment early because it was too noisy. We’ve now launched a campaign pack to help diners to speak out. The pack includes discreet materials to hand over to staff or leave with the bill. For the adventurous, it includes a thumb prop that customers can use to give venues the thumbs up or thumbs down on social media.’ Find out more about the campaign and order a pack at www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/SpeakEasy
The Good Pub Guide, long the definitive guide to pubs up and down the UK, is calling for a ban on piped music in pubs in its new 2017 edition. It declares that ‘piped music, canned music, muzak, lift music, airport music – call it what you will, it’s there and our readers loathe it in any shape or form. It enlists bitter complaints from our readers and has done so ever since we started the Guide 35 years ago. It’s such an issue that we have always asked every main entry pub since 1983 whether or not they have it, and then clearly state this in each review.’
This seasonal good news should encourage all pubs to consider removing piped music if they currently have it. And it should encourage pub-goers to buy the latest edition of the guide. This has always been excellent. Now it is more useful than ever.
Silencity New York is, as its name suggests, a New York-based campaigning website concerned about noise in all its aspects.
Its website https://www.silencity.com/ has interesting articles with some very useful links.
Further publicity and inquiries from the francophone world (Switzerland and Québec as well as France) have led to contacts there. Richard Darbéra, Président du Bucodes-SurdiFrance, Bureau de Coordination des associations de Devenus Sourds et malentendants (the French equivalent of Action on Hearing Loss), is writing about the problems of piped music and would like to hear from anyone interested. Email him email@example.com http://www.surdifrance.org/
And Anna Lietti, a journalist for the Swiss magazine L’Hebdo, is writing a piece about piped music. Contact her Anna Lietti firstname.lastname@example.org
Pipedown UK receives many inquiries from France, where the problem of piped music (musique d’ambiance) appears to be as bad as it is in Britain. Most inquirers wonder whether there is a Pipedown français and would like to join. At present there is no Pipedown français but there could be and should be. Pipedown UK can give advice, tips and encouragement, helping possible French members get in touch with each other. But it cannot start a French Pipedown itself.
A vous mesdames et messieurs!
An epidemic of man-made deafness may threaten the world. The World Health Organization estimates that 360 million people already have moderate/profound hearing loss with another 1.1 billion people at risk. In the UK 11 million people have some form of hearing loss. This proportion could rise to one in five by 2035.
It has long been known that noise exposure during work can cause hearing loss. There is no mandated safe noise exposure for the public. Dr. Daniel Fink, in a paper presented to the Institute for Noise Control Engineering meeting in Providence, RI (USA) on 14 June 2016, discussed the fact that 85 decibels (dBA), widely thought safe for the public, is an ‘industrial strength’ occupational noise exposure standard. (Normal conversation is around 60 dB while noise from a jet plane taking off 300m away is about 100 dB, or 16 times as loud – the scale is logarithmic, not arithmetic.)
Because little research has been done on noise and hearing loss in normal life, the work standard has been thought safe for the general public. This may be wrong for two reasons. First, 85 dBA exposure will cause hearing loss in at least 15% of workers exposed to this noise level during their working lives. Second, noise continues outside the workplace. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adjusted the 85 dBA occupational noise exposure level for the additional exposure time – 24 hours a day instead of 8 hours, 365 days a year instead of 240 days at work- to come up with 70 decibels (unweighted) average as the safe environmental noise exposure level to prevent hearing loss.
Dr. Fink writes: ‘Noise exposure…causes auditory damage. Hearing loss is not part of normal physiological aging. In quieter primitive societies, auditory acuity is preserved into old age.’ He draws analogies between tooth loss and hearing loss. Both used to be accepted as a ‘normal’ part of ageing, so that by their mid-60s many people were almost toothless. Today, thanks to better dental care most older people keep their teeth. Dentures work but natural teeth work better. Similarly, needing hearing aids in old age is not normal either. And hearing aids are no substitute for preserved hearing. They do not correct hearing in the same way that glasses correct faulty vision, because hearing loss involves irreparable nerve and sensory organ damage in the inner ear.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention on 16 May 2016 recommended only 70 dB average noise exposure for the public with only one hour noise exposure at 85 dB. This recommendation, as it becomes known, should revolutionise overall attitudes towards noise. Noise is like secondhand tobacco smoke: not just a nuisance but a major health hazard causing hearing loss, tinnitus and many other health problems.
From Wednesday 1st June all branches of Marks and Spencer will be free of piped music, following a decision by its executive. ‘We’ve listened to customer feedback, and the licence to play music in all our stores has now been cancelled with effect from 1st June 2016′ said Gary Bragg. This decision, which will save Marks and Spencer money, is the result of years and years of determined campaigning by Pipedowners and other people, who have refused to be fobbed off with bland dismissals. Marks and Spencer remains the UK’s biggest chain store, a national institution. So this is a great day for all campaigners for freedom from piped music.
Millions of customers will be delighted by this news. So will thousands, probably tens of thousands, of people working in M&S who have had to tolerate non-stop music not of their choice all day for years. Congratulate the management, especially the new CEO Steve Rowe, by emailing M&S at email@example.com
Now we can shop in peace!
The Bullring in Birmingham, home to one of Britain’s largest shopping malls, has been experimenting with quieter music. For years pounding pop music has filled almost every corner and shoppers, of all ages and tastes, have had to tolerate it or leave. Now an experiment by Hammerson, which runs several shopping malls across Britain and is thinking of phasing out music because of its effect on shoppers, has shown that replacing clamourous loud music with softer ambient music – not blended ‘muzak’ but a sound closer to the sea – influences shoppers positively. They move less rapidly and seem to spend more. The results are still tentative but suggest that less noise equals more sales, at least initially. Pipedowners might prefer no background music at all but this sea music is better than, say, canned Vivaldi and certainly an improvement. But it would be interesting to see the effects of no music at all. Julian Treasure, chairman of the Sound Agency, is involved in the experiment.
Intrusive background piped music is a problem plaguing diners around the world, so the founding of a similar group in Spain is welcome news. Svante Borjesson has started a Madrid-based group, Comer Sin Ruido (eating without noise) at http://www.comersinruido.org/ He is concerned with all types of noise – a problem aggravated by the ‘hard surfaces’ favoured by too many designers at present, which echo or amplify background noises. He includes unwanted background music among the things that can wreck enjoyment of a meal. The site has a list of about 20 quiet restaurants around Spain, some with Michelin stars.
Anyone looking for, or knowing of, a quiet place to eat in Spain can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
The ‘Celtic music’ piped around the Celts: Art and Identity exhibition in the British Museum has been annoying visitors. One found the music ‘excruciating’; another advised people to take earplugs. Luke Turner, editor of The Quietus, an online magazine about music, said the music detracted from an otherwise enjoyable experience. ‘[It] felt like a real cliché of what you’d imagine Celtic music to be… like a “Celtic Moods” CD.’ The Times devoted a leader (16 October) to it, saying that ‘if people want music in museums let them plug it into their own ears.’ This is the first time a major national newspaper has discussed background music in a leader.
Dr Julia Farley, the exhibition’s curator, said she wanted to destroy any air of reverent silence, but she admitted the ‘Celtic music’ was a ‘bit of a marmite thing‘ i.e. you love it or loathe it. Unwittingly, she has revealed the misconception underlying most unwanted piped music. For while no one is ever actually forced to eat marmite in a restaurant (or anywhere else), far too often we are are forced to listen to music we hate. The final effects – irritation and alienation – are the exact opposite of what the proponents of background music generally claim.
It is well known that some surgeons play music (which will be of their choice but not possibly of rest of their team) during operations. Now a study suggests this may affect the skills of their surgical teams. Using an analysis of video footage from 20 operations, a report in the Journal of Advanced Nursing of 5 August 2015 of a UK study shows ‘that some operating theatre teams are negatively affected by background music during surgery. Communication within the theatre team can be impaired when music is playing… requests from a surgeon to a nurse for instruments or supplies were often repeated and there was qualitative evidence of frustration or tension within some teams.’ Conversely, new reports suggest that patients to whom music is played before and after operations may feel less pain and recover better. The vital point here, easily overlooked, is that patients may well find music of their own choice and taste soothing. But music they do not like or want will have the opposite effect. As musical tastes are more varied than they have ever been, freedom to choose the type of music (if any) they listen to is the issue. At present, that freedom is far too often lacking in hospitals.