Living With Noise Pollution
The world is getting louder, and all that racket can have serious consequences for your health. Here’s how to handle the increase in noise pollution and find a little peace for body, mind, and even soul.
Increase the Peace!
What to do if…
…the dog is barking incessantly.
Keep him occupied, says veterinarian Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Tufts Cummings School
of Veterinary Medicine, in North Grafton, Massachusetts. Try a chew toy scented with vanilla—it will seem novel. Or turn some
food into a puzzle with a Kong ($7 to $28, depending on size, at pet-supply stores), a hollow rubber toy that you fill with
kibble; the dog has to bop it around to get the treats. You can also try training him with a Gentle Leader head collar (visit
gentleleader.com for stores): Put it on when he’s barking, then gently pull the attached leash—which causes the halter to (painlessly) activate
calming pressure points—and say, “Quiet.” Eventually the command should work without the halter. To find a trainer, visit
the Association of Pet Dog Trainers website (apdt.com).
…your kids won’t stop hollering.
Don’t yell at them to stop yelling, says Chung Wallace, a preschool teacher in Passaic, New Jersey: “Children won’t follow rules that you yourself are breaking.” Instead, whisper (they’ll have to simmer down to hear you), or use your “inside voice.” Nancy S. Buck, Ph.D., a psychologist and the author of Peaceful Parenting ($16, peacefulparenting.com), likes the Loud Game: Go outside with the kids and tell them to get rid of the “screamies” by whooping at the top of their lungs. If they get loud again, ask if there are any more screamies they need to release. Another strategy is distraction, says Wallace: Introduce the kids to a new project, like origami. But don’t leave the supplies out all the time, she warns: “Then it won’t seem special. Their attention will stray, and they’ll start up again.”
…the neighbors are hosting another disco inferno.
Prefer to avoid conflict? There are a few ways to maintain your sanity and your relationships: The most effective is a pair
of noise-canceling headphones, which produce sound frequencies that help neutralize incoming noise. (Try Audio-Technica’s
ATH-ANC23 noise-canceling headphones; $100, audio-technica.com for stores.) You can also download a white-noise app for your iPhone (Free, itunes.com) or Android ($1, market.android.com). Chris Bennett, the proprietor of Daily Decibel, a website that advocates for peace and quiet, suggests this lower-tech
option: heavy-duty foam earplugs, such as Hearos Xtreme Protection ($2.50 for seven pairs, walgreens.com). They have a 33 noise-reduction rating based on Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. (That means they reduce noise
by 33 decibels.)
Places Where It’s Still Quiet
Like the Center for the History of American Needlework. (Visit museumsusa.org.)
Empty spots in the library
Head to a special collections room or the higher floors, which tend to be less busy.
Parks that enforce noise-pollution ordinances
Some national parks strictly prohibit loud music and vehicles. (Find them at nps.gov.)
Houses of worship
Many have an open-door policy, but respect is in order. (Leave the trashy novel at home.)
Consider them “memorial parks” and they’ll seem less creepy. And there are plenty of empty benches to rest in peace.
One Square Inch of Silence
The proprietors of this teeny sanctuary in Washington State’s Hoh National Park aim to keep it 100 percent free of noise pollution. Download MP3 samples recorded at the park, including “melting snow” and “mountain steps,” at onesquareinch.org/links.