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.
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 email@example.com
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.
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.)
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!
Lidl, the famously discounted supermarket chain, has experimented with piped music in a few branches recently. Finding that it was not proving popular, they have stopped it and promised to keep their branches muzac-free in future. Their sage decision was encouraged by the many letters of protest they received from Pipedowners. And their sales and profits continue to grow – the latter by 9.4%. Proof that giving up piped music can boost profits and that protests can influence shops!
Meanwhile Waterstones, the chain of bookshops, has returned to profit, making £9.8m profit in the year to April 2016 compared to a loss of £4.5m the previous year. Waterstones has been quietly but steadily phasing out piped music from its branches. Yet further proof that giving up piped music helps boost profits!
Moral: protest can and does work!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com
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!