Ach! The Noise, Noise, Noise!

ZCCC.Shanghai.Decibel.1Digital decibel sign in Shanghai, China

photos and video attached ~

One question I often get from Americans: Is China noisy? Is it noisier than living in the states?

I am amazed that even though I live in midtown Zhuhai, a city of 1 million plus residents, it is very quiet. The only sound I am hearing when the sun comes up is the rooster that lives a couple of blocks away!

As I am out and about, I see no TV monitors in waiting rooms. There are no TVs playing annoying talk shows in hospitals. There are no monitors playing loud music and commercials at gas stations or on buses. There is no Muzak playing in restaurants. One can actually have a conversation with friends, the main reason I dine out. There are large numbers of people just about everywhere I go, but comparatively speaking I experience a more quiet environment than in the states.

We often talk about keeping our voices healthy. But, we forget that this includes protecting our hearing too. Surely, all this constant over-stimulation elevates our blood pressure and causes many other unhealthy responses. For now, let’s stick to how this noise can bring about hearing loss . . .

Any sound above 85 dB (decibels) can cause hearing loss, and the loss is related both to the power of the sound as well as the length of exposure. If you have to raise your voice to be heard by somebody else you are listening to at least an 85-dB sound.

Eight hours of 90-dB sound can cause damage to your ears; any exposure to 140-dB sound causes immediate damage (and causes actual pain).

Environmental Noise

Whisper Quiet Library        30dB

Normal conversation at 3′  60-65dB

City traffic (inside car)         85dB

Jackhammer, 50′                   95dB

Subway train, 200′                 95dB

Power mower, 3′                   107dB

Rock concert                          115dB

Sound Levels of Music
Normal piano practice 60 -70dB
Fortissimo Singer, 3′ 70dB
Chamber music, small auditorium 75 – 85dB
Piano Fortissimo 84 – 103dB
Violin 82 – 92dB
Cello 85 -111dB
Oboe 95-112dB
Flute 92 -103dB
Piccolo 90 -106dB
Clarinet 85 – 114dB
French horn 90 – 106dB
Trombone 85 – 114dB
Tympani & bass drum 106dB
Walkman on 5/10 94dB
Symphonic music peak 120 – 137dB
Amplifier, rock, 4-6′ 120dB
Rock music peak 150dB

The incidence of hearing loss in classical musicians has been estimated at 4  – 43%, in rock musicians 13 – 30%.

Statistics for the Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart were taken from a study by Marshall Chasin, M.Sc., Aud(C), FAAA, Centre for Human Performance & Health, Ontario, Canada.

What Can You Do?

Since voices tend to produce a more pressed phonation –

  • Avoid talking over noise whenever possible. Turn off the fan, buzzing lights, computers, etc. when talking.
  • Wear an earplug in at least one ear. It can help your voice avoid speaking too loudly.
  • When you can, use sound makers (whistles, hand claps, etc.) rather than a loud voice.
  • Use personal amplification or room amplification when coaching or teaching to minimize voice overuse:  /
  • Avoid loud public spaces, especially places where amplification is over-used.
  • Search out restaurants where acoustics are kind to the ear. I find Asian restaurants to be more considerate in this regard.
  • Get intentional about it! Encourage a quiet household by lowering your voice, take turns talking, keeping the TV and music speakers at a comfortable level, schedule a silent time every day, move away from loud sounds and closer to the person to whom you are speaking.


What else can you do as a teacher?

  • Talk to your administrators about the importance of classroom acoustics adding acoustic panels to the ceiling and walls and carpeting to the floors. These materials help decrease the reverberation or echo of sound in the room.
  • Minimize the noise from fans, lights, overhead projectors, and sound coming from other classes especially while teaching.  for the Acoustical Society of America’s Classroom Acoustics booklet.                   

Silence can be golden and just what your brain and soul might need in this                             “never a dull moment” kind of world. 


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