You’ve heard the warnings many times before, and you’re even beginning to become aware of it in your own environment. Noise pollution is taking a toll on our health according to medical researchers around the globe. We all need to step up to the plate and make an effort to quiet our environments before the noise makes us ill, or worse.
Worse? Yes. Noise can kill us. It can also drive us to do crazy things.
I have written plenty of articles about the health effects of noise on humans, animals, and plant life. I have covered new findings relating traffic noise to increased incidents of heart attack, and ambient environmental noise to a host of disorders from sleeplessness to depression, increased blood pressure, delayed recovery from major illnesses and even surgery. Noise can be toxic, but if we all become at least somewhat mindful of the health risks of noise, we can take steps toward making our environments quieter, healthier places.
Once we do that, we can sit back and enjoy our improved quality of life, and watch it work its magic on our friends and families, right? Think about it, if we suddenly all became hypervigilant about our own noise emissions and eradicated 90 percent of environmental noise overnight, the serenity might be overwhelming. Would we know what to do with it, or what it would sound like?
In addition to the toll environmental noise pollution takes on our bodies, there is another way noise can lead to death - murder. Seriously, folks are murdering each other over loud stereos and high volume parties in rising numbers, and this is a whole new side effect of noise that I think we’d better start paying closer attention to. People are killing each other over noise, and the problem seems to be worsening.
OK, we know theoretically that neighbors have had deadly disputes since the Hatfields and McCoys began murdering each other back in 1863 and didn’t stop until 1891. Of course, their ongong feud wasn’t started because of noise, but it created a whole lot of noise for both families and their neighbors on the West Virginia–Kentucky border. Noise can be scary and intimidating, it can be used as a weapon. The Hatfield/McCoy noise occured in the days before restraining orders and costly noise citations were issued to prevent crimes between neighbors, so it probably got pretty loud over there on the Kentucky/West Virginia border.
Fast Forward to Brentwood California, 2004. I once watched a television news report about Actress Julie Newmar, whose Brentwood home is next door to the home of Actor James Belushi. For years these two have been making each other’s lives miserable, a feud triggered when the aging Catwoman first complained about Belushi’s loud music invading her serene home environment.
Now, neighborly spats over noise, and one neighbor’s refusal to turn down the volume causing the offended neighbor to set off on a “campaign of harassment” (so said Belushi’s $4 million lawsuit against Newman when the back and forth became unbearable) is nothing new, and neither of them killed each other (although both alluded to fantasizing about it). But they each had blood pressure spiking for years, trouble sleeping, and heightened states of stress. But, other than the fact that this was Catwoman and the younger brother of the late, great Bluto, they could easily be any two American neighbors being driven crazy over one man’s music being another man’s inability to cope.
It’s never healthy when neighbors begin behaving like bullies, but what’s worse is when one neighbor loses site of reality and takes their rage to the next level. Some people are truly hypersensitive to noise, and it can become pathological. Ligyrophobia is literally a fear of noise, and although not every guy who goes off on a tirade over the neighbor’s barking dog or noise coming from a party is ligyrophobic, you don’t want to be blasting AC/DC in your garage if your neighbor happens to suffer from the condition. Let’s face it, we really do need to become more considerate, we never know when our neighbor might have a legitimate sensitivity to noise. Ligyrophic or not, he or she may have suffered from a traumatic event in their lives, or even an illness that left them with a low tolerance for noise.
Or, they could be doing a schedule II drug like methamphetamine, which can make a person overreact to even the slightest stimuli, in which case it’s just not safe to egg them on.
Such was the case last month in Woodlawn, California when police were called to a home on a noise complaint. When they arrived on the scene, a man who wasn’t happy about noise coming from his neighbor’s house had worked himself up into quite a frenzy, flashing a toy gun he held under a towel at police – the same toy gun he had waved at his noisy neighbors just minutes earlier in an encouraging gesture to get them to turn down their stereo. Of course, brandishing even a toy gun is highly illegal, especially when you do it with methamphetamine in your bloodstream and in a little bag hidden in your sock for later. Had the toy gun been real, the noisy neighbors may never have learned how close to a psychotic episode their noise-sensitive by means of meth neighbor had come, and how seriously agitated he was over their loud music.
Methamphetamine ingestion can cause a person do rash things he or she might never do ordinarily, like shoot their noisy neighbors who refuse a request to pipe down.
And for more than a year we’ve been glued to the trial of a 46-year-old retired firefighter from Houston who shot his unarmed neighbor, a 36-year-old school teacher, over noise coming from a birthday party being hosted in the school teacher’s home next door. The shooter, Raul Rodriguez, insisted he had the right to “stand his ground” at the base of the noisy neghbor's driveway and shoot the neighbor along with two other victims. Rodriguez had a reputation for being a hothead and a bully, and he seriously believed he could use deadly force against a neighbor because the birthday party noise was agitating him. He’ll spend 40 years in prison, having been convicted of murdering his neighbor over noise.
Weren't most of us at one time that smart aleck who thought it was funny to crank the stereo louder when a neighbor complained? It really wasn't a thoughtful gesture, and had I known then what I know now, I would not have participated in those antics. Noise is perceived differently by everyone, and even the most level headed among us, when subjected to noise that is invasive and inescapable for an extended period of time can be driven nuts. Our bodies aren’t designed for long stretches of high decibels. Some of us are more sensitive to noise than others. Of course, we expect our neighbors not to turn into murderous lunatics over sounds that we enjoy and relate to good times, but if they’ve knocked on your door, called you on your phone, or contacted the police because the noise is bothering them, they’re telling you the noise is too loud.
Turn it down. Buy some headphones. Install soundproofing material in your garage or home media room to block and absorb noise so you can crank your stereo without invading your neighbor's privacy.
Everyone will live longer.
You know that feeling, that deep seated anger and helplessness you feel when a boom car pulls up next to you at the 7-11? You’re just trying to put gas in the tank and get on with your day, when all of a sudden the pavement beneath your feet shakes, and your stereoceillia – you know, the bundle of fibers in the inner ear hair cell that mechanically responds to vibration – gets so stressed, you’re going to spend the rest of your life struggling with tinnitus just because you stopped for gas.
But the kids in the boom car are oblivious to your pain. Apparently, they’re enjoying the music at decibel levels that rival those expressed by a jet engine taking off in the parking lot next door. How can they even identify it as music, you ask? It could be the sounds of the End Times, or the first rumblings of a tsunami for all anyone knows. There is no deciphering anything musical, with the exception of that deep, sonic, rhythmic boom, boom, boom that tells you someone was concerned with a beat here.
If you’re not sure where this is going, I’m straying from my usual textbook style blog posts to vent about boom cars, and their menace to society and all things decent.
Don’t get me wrong, I love music, and I love mine loud -- louder than is probably safe for my hearing, but not so loud that I can’t hear it. I like to decipher the lyrics and separate the instrumentals, and I believe that if you’ve never listened to Ode to Joy at vibration-causing decibels, you’re missing a spiritual experience of epic proportions. But I digress.
I do this risky music listening business with headphones because I am a considerate human being who does not want to force my need for high volume on anyone else. It’s rude, and dismissive of their space. But my listening habits couldn’t begin to rival the decibel levels of a boom car.
I understand the need to feel great music pulsing through the nervous system, I grew up listening to my music Pete-Townshend-went-deaf-because-it-was-so-loud, loud. We played our music loud but we didn’t take it to ear the drum shattering levels of today’s boom cars – and we’re still going deaf!
It makes you wonder if this generation of youthful boom car riders are going to be getting cochlear implants at age 25 due to their recklessness.
An organization called Noise Free America believes that the U.S. needs to reestablish an office of noise abatement and control. Noise free America believes that noise pollution has reached epidemic proportions, and we’re all going to go insane because of it.
Not really, I made that insane part up, but I do believe boom cars will drive 70 percent of the U.S. population insane, and that’s probably a scientifically provable figure.
The boom car industry is, well, booming and there seems to be no end in sight. Young people do not believe they will ever go deaf, and they don’t care if the rest of us do. Even more horrifying, their cars are integral to their 21st century version of a mating ritual. I can see the attraction – there can never be conversation, so no need for social skills, demonstrated brilliantly by the unwillingness of boom car owners and passengers to show an iota of consideration to anyone around them. So these couples are made for each other.
The boom car industry has also taken a terrible thing to new levels, in addition to promoting boom cars on the highway – you know, those same highways the rest of us travel? Creating an everyday hazard to society apparently isn’t enough. The boom car industry now underwrites national and international competitions that award those who can produce the loudest sound from their boom car. Wait, it gets even more incredible.
The boom car industry isn’t creating this monster alone – it has help from stereo companies that create the specialty stereo systems that blast music at outlandish decibels within the small space of a car! And it has help from an entire niche of auto body and electronics companies that build the cars and make them all shiny and pretty and irresistible to young, impressionable people who haven’t experienced the ravages of hearing loss yet, but who are desperate to pick up girls. It’s a lethal combination. And boom car owners, most of whom are about old enough to work minimum wage jobs if they’re not up all night trolling in their boom cars for girls, are spending thousands of dollars to get their boom cars ready for these competitions. Maybe they have excellent paper routes.
According to Noise Free America (NFA), these boom car competitions are called dB drag racing competitions, and they say that these contests are “not just ‘boys being boys’ or ‘good clean fun.’" Noise Free America says these competitions create death machines, due to the extreme intensity of sound and the ultra-low frequency levels produced.
Now this is really important – the extreme density of sound and the ultra low frequency levels produced – to sit in some of these boom cars during a sound competition, NFA says, would mean instant death.
“This type of vehicle is reinforced and highly modified to accommodate the massive amounts of amplifiers, sub-woofers, and electrical equipment,” the NFA report says.
The sound produced by some of these monsters is accomplished by remote control. More contestants than you want to know have blown whole ear drums in these competitions, and these are people who are still in their teens and early 20s. Unlike lizard tails, ear drums don’t grow back. Someone should explain this to them.
And, though some of these boom cars are not street worthy, young people who witness these competitions are inspired to go home and build their own boom car to drive on the street. Thus, even more of these hazards are on the road to menace and disrupt the peace and safety of society, and all that we know to be good and decent.
Boom car operators thrive on getting attention and being noticed. The more intense the decibels and the lower the frequency, the more respect and bragging rights they have over their peers - at least until the instant death part happens.