Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sound to Heal, Sound to Harm | BYB

This blog is about using sound for healing. The truth is that sound can also be used to cause harm.

Noise pollution is a serious health threat in North America, Europe, and other urbanized parts of the world.

Medical studies have shown that the human brain can cope with no more than three noise sources at a time---and then only for a limited period. How long, minutes or hours, depends on the person and the noise.

After that, the human brain's thinking processes literally shut down. You simply cannot think anymore (never mind trying to sleep).

Part of the problem is too many people and machines concentrated in one area. Traffic and construction noises are typical examples.

Much of the problem, though, is lack of consideration for others, even outright hostility. Deliberately creating excessive noise, or refusing to moderate noise that you know will disturb others, is an antisocial act. It can be a form of aggression.

Technology often outstrips common sense. And marketers are quick to push products that will make money, regardless of the harm they may cause. In particular I'm referring to the spread of subwoofers, also known as "sub-bass speakers".

Sub-bass speakers are actually subsonic. That is, they are designed to vibrate humans and their environment (walls, floors, etc.) with "sound" that is technically below the audible (hearing) range.

Any sound you hear from sub-bass speakers is just added on to let you know that they are working. Sub-bass speakers are actually designed to rock your world. That is, they are designed to vibrate buildings, air, and people's bodies.

If you live miles from civilization, maybe that would not harm other humans. But it could certainly harm wildlife.

But sub-bass/subwoofer speakers are generally an urban phenomenon, and they are a harmful one. Their use in vehicles has been outlawed in some cities, because their use in the so-called "boombox cars" has been found to damage masonry buildings.

Cars are not the only places that sub-bass speakers are installed these days. They are in all new stereo systems, medium to large television sets, computer speaker systems, video game systems, and even cheap CD players. That is a really bad thing!

Think about it: If the vibrations can damage buildings, what do they do to your body? Part of the answer depends on the vibration.

* Some throbbing beats actually make your legs ache when they vibrate the foundations of buildings.

* Others feel like you are being bopped on the back of the neck at the base of the skull. Inside that area is the brain stem, the oldest part of the brain, the part that controls your body's automatic functioning such as breathing, hormone release, and heartbeat.

* The rapid air-pressure changes caused by some rhythms make you feel as if someone is boxing your ears (a practice that was stopped generations ago as a way of disciplining children, because it damages your hearing).

* Other times the vibrations affect the stomach and intestines, interfering with digestion and causing nausea.

* Probably the most frightening and unpleasant effect is when the vibrations affect the human diaphragm, the thin muscle membrane that supports the heart and lungs. It can feel as though you are having a heart arrhythmia. In other words, it feels as though your heart is beating out of sync. It also feels difficult to breathe.

* Trying to sleep in a constantly jolted bed keeps you from sleeping normally---if you can sleep at all. The damaging effects of sleep deprivation for mental and physical health are well documented. Sleep deprivation is officially, legally a torture method.

Recently a neighbor told me about a man who had a small subwoofer (sub-bass) speaker attached to his computer. He had placed it on the floor, which happens to be the best place to put one for maximum vibration. He had also "turned it way down low" and forgotten about it.

His downstairs neighbors could not sleep and felt that they were being constantly bopped on the head when he was working at the computer. It took awhile for the computer guy to figure out what they were complaining about, because he didn't hear anything and didn't notice the vibration.

The vibration was being propagated through his floor, magnified by the air space between floors, traveling down the walls, and even vibrating the foundation of the building.

All this is in addition to the effects of actual sound. It is just vibration. Of course, such vibrations also often create sound, as when they vibrate window panes, glassware, fan blades, metal railings, and other things.

Add to the misery of having your body pummeled by someone else's choice of rhythm the fact that rock and roll (and rap/hiphop) rhythms have been proven stunt the growth of plants, and you have dangerous sound pollution.

This has all been brought more and more to mind recently by a nasty neighbor, a lawyer who rehearses a rock band several times a week from midnight till 3 or 4 am across the street from where I live.

When one neighbor dared to tell him that the noise was jolting her building all night and was costing her and others sleep, he started a campaign of retaliation. He now runs a stereo (with powerful sub-bass speakers but with the sound turned down somewhat) all night long, every night.

That jolts the foundation of our apartment building. It can be felt and heard even in the courtyard on the side of the building away from the street. Sometimes it can be heard (or felt) up to two blocks away!

Having been sleep-deprived now for months, I have been having a hard time thinking, much less blogging. However, I finally found the blessing in this particular misery: It inspired this blog post.

Be aware of the sound and vibration in your environment. Make sure that you are not disturbing others. Sometimes the most healing sound of all is silence.

May you be blessed with plenty of silence---as well as healing sounds when you need them.


SandyCarlson said...

This is interesting. I learned quite a lot. As a somewhat reclusive person, I find noise to be incredibly painful. Thanks for sharing this.

Anna Book said...

I like this article. Boomboxes have become such a problem and contribute emancly to noise polution. They usually start with sounds as if T-Rex is on his way and 15 minutes later the walls of my house vibrate. It actually physically hurts. Wish Government would have more stricter laws like they do for smoking.