Noise News for Week of September 22, 1996

American Entertainment Introduces Young Audiences To Hearing Damage

DATE: September 25, 1996
SECTION: page 10
BYLINE: Jill Kramer
ACTIVISTS, INDIVIDUALS, AND GROUPS MENTIONED: HEAR (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers

The Pacific Sun reports that digital technology has enabled movie producers and rock bands alike to increase the quality of sound their entertainment provides, but it has also inspired them to increase the volume as well. The government has no regulation regarding the sound level of movie or musical entertainment, and the affect of excessive noise on the human ear is usually not the priority of movie producers, movie-goers, rock bands, or rock fans. According to the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association, 10 million Americans suffer from noise-induced hearing loss and 20 million are exposed to potentially damaging noise levels. Hearing loss has increased by 14% since 1971. Preventative and protective measures are just starting to be taken.

The Pacific Sun reports an increasing number of younger people are experiencing hearing damage normally experienced at a later age. Hearing Awareness and Education for Rockers (HEAR) is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating musicians and fans alike about the dangers of excessive noise in a club or at home. The average rock club or concert outputs at least 110 decibels, which is much louder than the 85 decibels the ear can usually tolerate. Prolonged exposure to excessive and damaging levels can desensitize the ears, thus resulting in an increase of volume throughout a performance. A nightclub's volume can be as high as 125 decibels by the end of the performance. HEAR's testing services are used mostly by young musicians, some who are experiencing hearing damage which normally would occur to someone twice their age. HEAR now has a twenty-four hour hotline (414-773-9590), a Web site, and a mobile van. Its volunteers distributed 60,000 earplugs in 26 cities during The 1996 Lollapalooza Tour.

The ratio of decibels to length of exposure time is figured logarithmically, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Safe exposure time is cut in half for each five decibel increase. The human ear can tolerate 85 decibels for up to eight hours without any hearing damage, 90 decibels for four hours, and so on. Repeated exposure to noise above 85 decibels can result in ringing, temporary hearing shifts, permanent damage, or permanent loss, depending on the decibel level and length of exposure.

The Pacific Sun reports movie theaters and producers have also been increasing their volume. Young audiences prefer their movies loud, sometimes encouraging movie theaters to boost the fader, or volume control, to 10 when it should normally be set on 7. For those theaters who do not increase their volume, movie producers have responded by actually recording the movies louder. Decibel levels increase during the length of a movie, partly to make up for desensitization of the human ear. Lonny Jennings, a film technician at Dolby Laboratories in San Francisco, feels movie producers increase the volume because they get desensitized themselves by watching the same scene repeatedly. Behind the average movie screen there are three speakers, the center one emitting dialogue and the other two emitting music and special effects. Jennings feels some of the problem also lies in the way the films are recorded: the dialogue is softer that the music and effects, but in order to increase the volume of the dialogue, the volume of everything on the soundtrack must be increased.

The Pacific Sun reports while the United States has yet to take measures against the dangers of excessive entertainment noise, France is taking some action. Personal stereos are limited to 100 decibels by law there, and limits on live music venues have been discussed. The American public must fend for itself against the noise produced by movie theaters, musical venues, and our own stereos.

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Minneapolis Mayors Discuss New Runway At Twin Cities' Airport

PUBLICATION: Southwest Journal
DATE: September 25, 1996
SECTION: page 2
BYLINE: Mark Engebretson
DATELINE: Minneapolis, MN

The Southwest Journal reports a committee of mayors is discussing a new runway and its noise control at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. The Legislature is directing the Metropolitan Airport Commission to spend at least $100 million by the year 2002, $50 million more than originally planned, on noise control. The MAC has already promised to spend $135 million on noise control, raised by passenger fees and federal grants. Legislature has given the mayors the power to recommend how the money should be spent. Earlier this year the Legislature voted to expand the airport and not build a new airport.

The Southwest Journal reports some of the mayors disagree on how the recently extended 4/22 runway should be used. Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton proposed that 4/22 should be used for a larger number of domestic flights, which would decrease the amount of flights over South Minneapolis. The 4/22 runway is designed for jets that fly overseas. The mayors are not able to agree on a building date for a new north-south runway. The use of 4/22 for domestic flights would cost $40 million for new noise abatement, which opponents say would be wasteful because the north-south runway would end up relieving 4/22's domestic flights anyway.

The article reports Sayles Belton, supported by the mayors of Eagan and Burnsville, thinks the new runway should be built when "runway 4/22 cannot provide traffic redistribution of at least 20%". Other mayors support immediate construction of the new runway to increase the airport's flight capacity and to divert some flight patterns away from South Minneapolis and towards other portions of the south metropolitan area. MAC claims the new runway would take five or more years to be built, and they expect to be challenged in court.

The article reports the money for noise abatement, if allocated, will be used for finishing the noise insulation on homes in the LDN 65 contour. 4,000 other residential buildings would also receive noise insulation.

The article reports Sayles Belton is also pushing to reduce flights at night. She is negotiating to extend the nighttime flight ban from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. Currently the airlines voluntarily withhold from using Stage II aircraft from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. She is also proposing that the MAC charge a nighttime differential landing fee to discourage flights between 10:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. MAC attourneys claim MAC cannot enforce a mandetory restriction. Sayles Belton is also asking MAC to support noise-polluted communities by helping them seek legistalative funding for tax credits and property-value guarantees.

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Enforceable Noise Ordinance Makes for Quieter Neighborhoods in Vermont College Town

PUBLICATION: The Burlington Free Press (Burlington, VT)
DATE: September 22, 1996
SECTION: News; pp. 1 & 8A
BYLINE: Sona Iyengar
DATELINE: Burlington, Vermont
ACTIVISTS, INDIVIDUALS, AND GROUPS MENTIONED: Corporal Shawn Toof, nine-year veteran of the Burlington Police Department

The Burlington Free Press reports that police are enforcing Burlington, Vermont's updated noise ordinance by patrolling neighborhoods and issuing fines for violations. According to this article, violators of the noise ordinance are mostly college-age people involved in off-campus parties. Burlington's noise ordinance prohibits noise from any party or social event that "interferes with the peace or health of members of the public or is audible through walls between units within the same building, from another property or from the street." The ordinance discourages Burlington police officers from simply giving a warning if they determine a noise violation has occurred. Penalties for a first offense range from $100 to $500.

According to this Burlington Free Press article, in one weekend, officers ticketed almost seventy people for noise violations, open containers, and public urination. Officer Shawn Toof, a community-based police officer who patrols two sections of Burlington's residential areas, admits he gets frustrated with noisy groups. "That's the problem. When they don't have any conception of what they're doing, it's probably bothering someone." A sixty-seven year old resident of one of Burlington's neighborhoods heavily populated with college students said young people continue to keep him awake at night. One college student responded to the increased enforcement of the noise ordinance with, "Why would they want to bust down on college students? College students are going to be loud." The University of Vermont and other area colleges are joining the city's efforts to step up their efforts to fight noise and settle noise disputes.

In addition to regulating noise from parties, the article cites four other sources of noise prohibited under certain circumstances: (1) Noise from radios, TVs, musical instruments, phonographs and similar devices "so as to disturb the peace, quiet or comfort of the public" or which is "audible through the walls between units within the same building, from another property of from the street." (2) Car sound equipment that is audible 25 feet from the vehicle. (3) Use of power equipment or machinery outdoors from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. (4) Construction noise between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

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Next week: September 29, 1996



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