A new survey from New York reveals the effects on human health of noise of all sorts. Noise is now second only to air pollution in its adverse effects on human health. Hypertension and cancer are two of the potentially fatal illnesses that excessive, non-stop music – which triggers a fight-or-flight response – can cause. And, as the report in Harpers Bazaar magazine points out, you can no longer hope to find a refuge in bars, hotels, restaurants or even bookshops, as almost all are filled with piped music!
‘Loud noise correlated with high-stress events that could damage tissue: thunder, animal roars, screams, or war cries,’ says Bart Kosko, Ph.D., a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Southern California and the author of Noise. So, in response to rare but loud threats, we evolved to spurt out adrenalin, cortisol, and other stress hormones—chemicals that jacked up our bodies so we could fight or flee. A constant gush of stress hormones actually restructures the brain, contributing to tumor development, heart disease, respiratory disorders, and more. And of course, our hormonal endocrine systems haven’t had time to learn that car stereos aren’t out to get us. ‘Today we regularly get similar stress-hormone surges from car alarms, ringing phones, police sirens, leaf blowers, jackhammers, and amplified voices.’
The problem is of course global and not confined to the USA.
Carol Caplan has had a Brilliant Idea: handing out Pipedown leaflets to concert goers as they enter or leave a concert hall. As people who appreciate music when freely chosen are among our keenest members, targeting people at such concerts should prove far more fruitful than thrusting leaflets at the general public.
Carol would much appreciate other Pipedowners’ company and support. This should take members very little time but ideally you should live in or near London.
She is also interested in starting a Local Group for Pipedowners living in London, especially those living in the N2, N3, N8, N10, N11, N12, N14,N21, N22 post codes.
Contact her at Pipedown@ossian.me.uk
People living in the USA have long complained about the problems caused by piped music there. Now the Ann Arbor, Michigan group has relaunched itself with a sparkling new website http://quietannarbor.org
Although their intention is to focus on local problems first – understandably, the US being a big place – they are very happy to exchange contacts and ideas with Americans from other states. So do contact them firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics in Britain look to be unusually volatile in the next few months. This very uncertainty give us a chance to alert MPs – plenty of them new to Westminster – to the problems caused by piped music, and also the need for official action to ban it in hospitals. This could come either through a Private Member’s Bill or directly by moves by the Department of Health. Copies of Whose Choice is it Anyway?, highlighting the stress such noise can cause, are available free on request.
If you have a new MP, write to him/her explaining the many grave problems piped music can cause, especially to people affected by presbycusis, tinnitus, misophonia and hyperacusis and also ME and autism. The MP concerned may be totally unaware of any of these problems.
The number of people with a disability that can be worsened or triggered by loud piped music is large and growing. The category includes people suffering from autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, tinnitus, presbycusis, hyperacusis, ME and misophonia as well as general difficulty in hearing. Added together they make up at least 20% of the population. Up to now this sizeable minority has been mostly ignored not only by supermarkets and other retailers but also – far more disgracefully – by those running hospitals, health centres, gyms and public swimming pools. This is despite the requirement to consider the needs of people with such conditions under the Disability Act of 1995 and the Equality Act of 2010.
There are signs that the commercial sector at least is beginning to wake up the problem. Some have been trialling quiet hours and/or quiet days, or even thinking of dropping piped music altogether. (See previous posts.) If you or people you know suffer from any of these, problems, when protesting do mention it, and also the two Acts. Stress that by playing inescapable loud music throughout their premises shops, gyms etc are excluding large groups of people. If it is unacceptable to exclude people on grounds of colour, sexuality, gender, race or religion from public places, it is equally unacceptable, and against the law, to exclude people because of their disabilities mentioned above.
Paula Nickolds, the new Managing Director of the John Lewis/Waitrose chain, has all the right ideas about piped music. She wrote, in response to inquiries from Pipedown, that she is ‘a great fan of our current position’ on music and has no plans to change it. Wise words.
As the holiday season gets going, people planning a trip start looking at sites such as Tripadvisor www.tripadvisor.co.uk, Booking.com www.booking.com and Expedia https://www.expedia.co.uk
If you visit a hotel/restaurant/bar and comment online about it, don’t forget to add whether or not the place concerned has piped music. Do so very prominently. If enough comments – intelligent, polite but pointed comments – are posted about piped music, hoteliers and restaurateurs should start to take note. (Some people object to the potential misuse of these sites. Certain comments may be prejudiced, some may be malicious and even orchestrated, but overall they can still help the prospective traveller – and also the hotelier/restaurateur concerned.)
There are tentative signs that more of the big supermarkets considering following M&S and reducing, even phasing out, their piped music, in part because of protests from people with autism, tinnitus, Asperger’s syndrome and similar health problems. Tesco is trialling ‘quiet hours’ in some of its Tesco Extra branches, where piped music is often played. Two other of the big four supermarkets also seem to have taken note of the petition below. Morrisons has announced that they are working with the National Autistic Society to pilot “quiet hours” in three stores, Woking, Gainsborough and Lincoln, from 09.00 to 10.00 on Saturday mornings. This pilot scheme starts on 27th March and will last for three months. ASDA has gone further and is planning to introduce “quiet hours” in its stores across the nationwide to collect responses about a complete withdrawal of the piped music in their stores.
Like Action on Hearing Loss and other groups representing people with such disabilities,, Pipedown has been pushing supermarkets to wake up to the problems that piped music causes such vulnerable shoppers. Now they finally seem to be listening. We must keep up the pressure.
Sign the petition below to help persuade the supermarkets.
Signs that the Co-op is not totally deaf to reasoned protests continue to emerge. It has promised ‘to undertake a small trial of music-free shops in order to gain some wider customer feedback’. The chain says that this is as a result of customers asking if the music could be turned off. Our emails and letters clearly have made a difference so let’s keep protesting. These ‘small trials’ of music-free bliss may not happen in your store. Meanwhile the group is getting a new CEO, Steve Murrells. Email him at email@example.com and stress the difficulties that piped music causes to people with autism, tinnitis, presbycusis, hyperacusis, misophonia and similar health problems, as well as the annoyance it causes to everyone else. (Parts of the Co-op group, such as the East Anglian and Midlands regions, are independent and are so apparently free of muzac at present. Obviously they can be ignored but most Co-op branches are controlled centrally.)
The Alloa branch of Tesco in Tayside has been trialling a Quiet Hour every Wednesday evening when not just piped music but other obtrusive noises are turned off to help people with autism (about 1% of the population.) The company said feedback from customers during the trial had been ‘overwhelmingly positive,’ meaning that most non-autistic customers also welcomed the novel peace. Tesco should make such experimental quiet hours the norm. Email its CEO Dave Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell him so.
In a Which? survey of shoppers’ ratings of supermarkets, Waitrose came top, followed by Marks and Spencer, Aldi and Lidl (excluding the on-line shopping service that Iceland offers.) All these chains have their differing virtues of course but all have one thing in common: they are free of piped music. Coincidence? Of course not!