Coping with Sound Sensitivity

To: quiet-list@igc.org
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Subject: Intuition and sensitivity
Date: 3/25/98

>Date: Wed, 25 Mar 1998 13:36:06 -0800
>From: Risk Control Technologies, Inc.

>Whatever the reason, the noise/music brings out the very
>worst in those listening. And when you consider the number of
>hours they listen, it isn´t surprising kids aren´t doing
>particularly well in school. This noise/music is not congruous
>with discipline, which is a requirement for better grades and
>higher test scores.

>No, I can´t say for certain that a real relationship exists, but: if
>it looks like a duck, walks like a duck... .

>Bob S.

RP - One of the problems that plagues us at the current state of the human experiment is that most folks and institutions don´t value intuition (the foundation of common sense - the duck metaphor) as a way of knowing. Based on the religion of western science we are expected to prove rationally and unequivocally that something is either true or false. As a compromise in the realm of human affairs we´ve invented the concept of normal or average. If one deviates too much from the normal such as being more sensitive than normal to any stimulus including sound one is more or less a freak depending upon how much one deviates from the normal.

If we discover that we´re one of those abnormally sensitive folks, we need to adapt, to apply our intelligence to coping with our heightened sensitivity in a world that probably couldn´t care less. Choosing confrontations that are most likely to make a positive difference and avoid those that are a waste of life is good for starters. Flocking together is another coping mechanism. Learning to be light and fast and living in the gaps (the silences) is another. Raising the consciousness levels of family, friends, and everyday contacts is yet another. For those so inclined, politics and legislation offer a standard approach to changing people´s outward behavior. Even in the face of today´s massive cultural unraveling some of us still practice the relatively slow grassroots person-to-person educational approach with confidence that improving the soil will improve the plant which will improve the fruit. In matters of human being persistence still seems to be the key to success.

Ron Pellegrino


To: quiet-list@igc.org
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Subject: Intuition and sensitivity
Date: 3/26/98

>In a message dated 98-03-25 18:10:25 EST, you write:
»If we discover that we´re one of those abnormally sensitive folks

>It remains to be seen whether we list members are
>"abnormally" sensitive to noise. Does anyone have
>any statistics on the annual number of noise calls
>received by police departments? I have recently
>requested that information, but the local PD has
>ignored me.

RP - It should be clear that I´m using the term "normal" in the dictionary sense unclouded by emotion or preference - "conforming to the standard or common type; the average or mean." My experience is that less than one person in a thousand will complain about sounds that most on this list would consider excessive; this list is not composed of average or normal people in the dictionary sense. Also notice that I used the expression "more sensitive than normal to any stimulus including sound." I didn´t say "noise" because it´s a loaded word that people use to describe any sound that they don´t want to hear even though it may be music to the ears of one subculture or another.

>Probably most communities have noise control ordinances.
>This in itself suggests that it is not "abnormal" to be
>aggravated by too much noise. In my community the
>problem is lax enforcement.

Many laws on the books seem to be little more than political window dressing used to placate one pressure group or another, and noise control ordinances obviously fall into that category. Institutional support for reducing or removing aggravating sound is weak at best so the offended individual is usually left to his own devices for coping.

>Perhaps we list members are more sensitive to noise
>than most members of the population, but this does not
>mean we are freaks, and it doesn't mean that the majority
>are comfortable with current noise levels in our society.

>Michael Wright

RP - Over the years I´ve taken positions on issues including sound that were treated initially by the mainstream as messages from the "lunatic fringe" (just another name for freak) and then eventually embraced by that same mainstream as axiomatic. Once more, the dictionary definition of "freak" includes terms such as "unusual, odd, abnormal." It´s valuable to see ourselves as many in the mainstream might see us, that is, as different and outside the mainstream because we´re committed to dealing with an issue such as excessive sound, an issue that most people avoid even though they may not be "comfortable" with excessive sound; in fact they may not even be conscious of it. Many people believe they can "turn a deaf ear" to sound that they prefer not to hear; what they don´t know is that they´re inviting deaf ears by being in the presence of those undesirable sounds. The fact is also that we live in a society with a mainstream that is gradually going deaf; all of our transportation systems create a sonic barrage. Visit any movie theater and notice that nobody complains to the manager about the excessive sound levels. If you´re looking for quiet you need to remove yourself from the mainstream and that makes you a bit unusual, odd, and abnormal.

Ron Pellegrino


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