According to Audio Ecologist Gordon Hempton, silence is “the complete absence of all audible mechanical vibrations, leaving only the sounds of nature at her most natural. Silence is the presence of everything, undisturbed.” The question becomes, where is it? The search for quiet has begun.
4 Adverse Effects of Noise on Wildlife
Since humans are the source of noise pollution and that pollution has contributed to the depletion of wildlife populations, studies were conducted on the effects of noise on wildlife. In a surprising discovery, noise pollution adversely affects animals in four major ways.
- Hearing Loss – Humans are not the only ones suffering from hearing loss. Noise levels greater than 85 db can cause animals to lose their hearing.
- Masking – All the noise drowns out the sounds the animals need to hear, such as environmental cues and animal signals.
- Physiological Effects – It seems noise causes animal’s heart rate to increase, respiration to increase and stress levels to skyrocket.
- Behavioral Effects – In some cases, animals will abandon their territory resulting in lost reproduction.
The noise is so bad that Nobel Prize-winning bacteriologist, Robert Koch, stated, “The day will come when man will have to fight noise as inexorably as cholera and the plague.” So, what is being done to reduce the effects of noise?
First, What is Typical Noise?
Noise is measured in decibels (dB). The higher the decibel, the louder the noise. It takes just 80 decibels to damage hearing. Combine the decibel with length of exposure and you can lose hearing permanently.
Typical Noise from Quiet to Loud
- Whisper – 30 decibels
- Quiet Room – Around 40 dB
- Moderate Rainfall – Approaching 60 dB
- Conversation/ Dishwasher – Just over 60 dB
- Busy Traffic/Vacuum Cleaner – Around 85 dB
Start Hearing Damage
- Alarm Clock/Busy Street – Approaching 90 dB
- Lawnmower/Shop Tools/Trucks/ Subway – Just over 90 dB
- Snowmobile/Chain Saw/Pneumatic Drill – Around 100 dB
- Timpani and Bass Drum Rolls – About 110 dB
- Rock Music/Model Airplane – Approaching 120 dB
- Jackhammer – Over 120 dB
- Car Stereo/Band Practice – About 130 dB
- Firearms/Air Raid Siren/Jet Engine – Approaching 150 dB
- Rock Music Peak – 150 dB
So where can you go to escape the noise and enjoy peace and quiet…
Quietest Places in the USA
In an effort to reduce noise pollution, people across the country have dedicated themselves to finding and maintaining quiet. In a list of the top six quietest places, you can see what they have done to preserve the peace.
- Hoh Valley, WA – Deep in the rainforest resides the “One Square Inch Project.” In Olympic National Park, home of the largest roadless area in the U.S., a project has sprung up to keep one square inch of landscape free from human sound.
- Muir Woods, CA - In 2008, Muir Woods instituted “quiet days.” You can find this location just outside of San Francisco. It is home to the famous 200 feet tall redwoods.
- Anza-Borrego State Park, CA – In a desert and palm oasis, the click of hooves from the endangered Borrego sheep make the only sound. You might be surprised to learn this is only four hours away from 20 million people. It is a place of “real” quiet.
- The Grand Canyon, AZ - How loud is the human breath? Divide that by half and you can understand why the box canyons off the Colorado River, where the noise is that low, are number four on the list.
- Big Bend National Park, Texas - Diversity is the parks middle name. It has mountains, deserts, rivers and more species of bird, bats and cacti than any other park in the country. Add the fact that it is not part of many flight routes and you have a most unusual, noise free place. In fact, you won’t find any place like it in the world.
Central Park, NYC - Surprising everyone, Central Park made the list. Why? Simple, in the midst of a bustling and noisy city, you can wander into the park and start hearing birds and wind in the trees. While it is still not quiet, it is definitely quieter than the surrounding area.