Rising levels of background noise in some areas threaten to make people oblivious to the soothing yet inspiring sounds of birdsong, trickling water and trees rustling in the wind, natural sounds which can often be heard even in city centres, said Kurt Fristrup, a scientist at the US National Park Service.
The problem was worsened by people always listening to iPods and similar machines through earphones instead of tuning in to the birds and other natural sounds that can be drowned out by traffic, music and others noises, he said.
“This learned deafness is a real issue,” Fristrup told the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Jose. “We are conditioning ourselves to ignore the information coming into our ears. This gift that we are born with – to reach out and hear things hundreds of metres away, all these incredible sounds – is in danger of being lost through a generational amnesia . There is a real danger, both of loss of auditory acuity, where we are exposed to noise for so long that we stop listening, but also a loss of listening habits, where we lose the ability to engage with the environment the way we were built to”.
Much the same addiction to non-stop music afflicts people who expect ubiquitous and ceaseless piped music in every shop, restaurant, pub…