June 17, 2013
For baby boomers, noise matters.
"Decreased tolerance for loud sounds is a fairly common symptom of age-related hearing loss, as the range of comfortable listening levels seems to shrink," says Ted Madison, an audiologist in St. Paul, Minn., and a representative of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Beyond creating stress and annoyance, loud noises can cause hearing loss, according to experts. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reckons that noise over 85 decibels might cause hearing loss.
So what are the loud products we live with at home? According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, based in Rockville, Md., the "very loud" range includes blenders, blow dryers, vacuum cleaners and alarm clocks, all in the 80 to 90 decibel range.
"Extremely loud" - those in the 100 to 110 decibel range - are snow blowers, gas lawnmowers and some MP3 players.
In Brighton, England, a Noise Abatement Society fields complaints from citizens about annoyances ranging from neighbors' power tools to barking dogs to wind chimes. Managing director Poppy Elliott says her team decided to channel the collective angst over unwanted noise into "Quiet Mark," a seal of approval they give to products designed to be quieter.
So far more than 35 products have received the designation, from hair dryers to commercial tools, and Elliott said the organization is expanding globally.
"Manufacturers are responding to concerns about noise with new, quieter products.
LG has several - including the TrueSteam dishwasher - that use a Direct Drive motor, an alternative to the noisier belt-and-pulley system of traditional motors.
Rowenta's noise-reducing inventions include the Turbo Silence home fan and the Silence Form Extreme vacuum cleaner, which emits a decidedly timid 65 decibels. Electrolux's Ultra Silencer canister vacuum comes in at 68 decibels.
As for hair dryers, the Centrix Q Zone and Biolonic IDry Whisper Light are two low-noise options; the latter was one of the first products to receive the Quiet Mark designation.