Everyday noises are making our brains noisier

Everyday noises are making our brains noisier

Nina Kraus writes:

Take a walk on a busy avenue and you hear either traffic whizzing by or creeping in a honk-laden crawl. Add the hissing of pneumatic bus brakes, distant sirens, the boom-boom of overloud car stereos, the occasional car alarm, music coming from shops you pass, the beeping of a reversing delivery truck. All are part of the fabric of city life.

These sounds do not meet or exceed the generally accepted threshold of “unsafe.” They are not novel and alerting. They are ongoing and have generally consistent acoustic properties over time. These are the sorts of sounds most would consider “background noise.” For this reason, we tend to ignore them. We tune them out. But are we really tuning them out, or are we simply living our lives in a constant state of alarm?

We have all experienced not noticing a sound until it goes away. Often it is an air conditioner or an idling truck. The air conditioner cycles off or the ignition is cut, and suddenly we “hear” the silence. And we sigh in relief. We momentarily revel in the peace until it starts up again or is replaced by the next aural annoyance. If our ears are not being damaged and we can mostly tune it out, should these noises concern us? We should indeed notice it and be concerned for the sake of our brains. [Continue reading…]

Comments are closed.