Cars Crashing and Noise

Car Crashes and Noise

Car crashes are usually noisy affairs:  brakes shrieking, glass breaking, metal rending and grinding, etc.  Apparently the noise level of a car crash is often over 150 dB, which is very loud and very hard on hearing. And the noise level of airbags deploying is around 165 dB.  According to IEEE Spectrum: “It’s estimated that 17 percent of the people who are exposed to airbag deployment suffer some degree of permanent hearing loss.” (  (You can read more about the hearing damage caused by airbag deployment here.)

Watch an airbag deploy, in silence, here.

So what is to be done? Apparently the auto industry is very attentive to what they call “pre-safety” technologies:

“The idea of pre-crash safety has been out there for a while. For instance, a car can instantly tighten the seatbelt to minimize movement and prevent the body from “submarining” forward, under the belt. Or it can inflate a tiny airbag to nudge the driver toward the center, protecting against side impact. Or it can close the sunroof, adding to the rigidity of the cabin.” (ibid.)

And now we find out that Mercedes-Benz, as part of its pre-crash safety systems, has been working for years on a system that they are calling “pre-safe sound”, which is now available and “standard in the 2017 E class {Mercedes-Benz].” (ibid.)


And they are marketing it with this image:

pink noise

What, you ask, is “pre-safe sound”?  Exactly what it says, folks! Sound that occurs BEFORE your car crash happens. Here is what IEEE Spectrum says about it:

“When the car’s sensors sense an impending crash, the cabin is filled with a burst of “pink” noise, a broad spectrum of frequencies in which the power is inversely proportional to the frequency. That triggers the so-called acoustic reflex, in which the stapedius muscle—the smallest muscle in the body (remember that for Trivial Pursuit)—contracts, bracing it, the bones of the inner ear, and the eardrum. The pink noise is around 80 decibels, about equal to that of a dishwasher and completely safe.” (ibid.)


[A quick note:  80 dB is still pretty loud. And most new dishwashers are much quieter than that – mine is about 49 dB.  But, 80 is better than 160!]

If you have a lot of money, I guess you could buy one of these Mercedes. Or wait until pink noise becomes a standard item on all cars.

Drive carefully out there; and don’t play your music TOO loudly!



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Scotties knows noise

Scotties knows about noise!! Yes, THAT Scotties – the people who sell you Kleenex, and paper towels and toilet paper.

Do you watch curling on TV?  Are you that sort of person?  Or perhaps you attend curling tournaments?


Then, you might have seen a recent ad: this one for Scotties’ paper products.

Wait until the end and you will see why all these people are wearing their ear protection!


If you have ever been to an arena, especially a closed one like a curling rink, and if there are hundreds/thousands of fans in the building, then NOISE will be an issue. In fact, it can lead to long-term damage to your hearing.

(See here and here for previous NC postings about sports events and noise and ear protection.)

Suggestion: ALWAYS have your ear protection with you.  But if you forget, get to the washroom and grab some of Scotties’ product, twist it up and gently place it in your ears. That will help, at least a bit.

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Israel, Noise and Religion

Noise and Religion

A number of years ago, we were in Malaysia, and 5 times a day we heard the Muslim call to prayer. This call was usually amplified by sound systems near the various mosques. We were surprised, but since the calls are a common occurrence in countries with a Muslim population, we thought little of it.


mosque-loudspeakersPic of

Then one day at our hotel we heard a story of an Australian visitor who had disconnected a loud speaker outside his hotel window because the early morning call to prayer was waking him up. A few hours later he was arrested for blasphemy. Apparently you can’t disconnect these sound systems. (I am not sure what happened to him; I assume/hope he got off with a warning.)

But now, the Israeli government is planning to pass a bill which would limit “noise” between 11 pm and 7 am. Such a ban includes the first Muslim morning call to prayer. Supposedly the bill is intended to reduce noise pollution. But given the religious tensions in Israel, many see it as an attack on the Muslim population and their religious practices.

You can read more about the bill in a recent article here.

Here is another article about the bill, from last fall. In it, we are told that the original bill was sent back for alterations due to concern about its impact on Jewish practices:

“In a sign of the complexity of the issue, it drew surprise opposition on Tuesday from Israel’s ultra-Orthodox health minister, Yaakov Litzman, who temporarily blocked parliamentary debate and sent the issue back to the ministers because it might also affect the use of sirens to announce the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath.”

And most likely, if the bill was applied equitably, this would be the case. It appears that  the new version of the bill restricts the use of loudspeakers and sound systems, but not sirens?

Other countries have placed decibel level limits on the muezzin calls:

“A 2011 Knesset-commissioned report found that several European countries, as well as Cairo and some cities in Saudi Arabia, currently impose decibel-level limits on the muezzin’s call.”

But a decibel limit is not a complete ban. Unfortunately, this bill is just another piece of the incredibly complicated situation in Israel. Who knows what will happen if it is passed, which seems likely. Once again, we run up against the delicate balance of what is considered ‘noise’ by some, and ‘not noise’ by others.  This time the conflict arises within an explosive social/cultural/political/religious context that seems to offer no acceptable compromise/solution.

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Silencers and Noise

Last week, a friend sent me this news item in which a US politician says he wants to make it easier to buy silencers for guns in order to protect the hearing of the gun owner/shooter. (Yes, that is what he says – give it a read!)  My friend asked what the NC thought of it. Here is what I wrote back to him:

“oh my , oh my.

Well, yes, less noise is almost always good. In this case, however, I would suggest that now that we know what damage noise (and that obviously includes shooting firearms) does to peoples’ hearing, the NC would suggest high quality hearing protection – NOT silencers. And if there are going to be silencers available, then the NC supports the current rules re: the tax, and the complex background check. Yes, I am quite sure that many people in the US and Canada shoot for sport.  BUT – and that has to be a VERY BIG BUT –  guns are used in a horrifyingly high number of deaths, especially in the US. Silencers play  only a tiny part of that high number, but why make it easier when there are other options to deal with the noise? This politician seems to be ‘deaf’ to the perception of his stance – I see no suggestion that he ‘gets’ why his plan looks/is so wrong footed.”

The politician says he has no idea why someone would reject his idea: “I don’t know why [Obama] would be against protecting people’s hearing. I don’t know why anybody would.”  (This is a downright goofy argument. Maybe this will become a constitutional amendment?  Owning a silencer is your right as part of your package of inalienable rights as a US citizen?)


You can learn more about the history of silencers in this article about a recent law in Minnesota that makes buying a silencer legal. (It is interesting to know that even the NRA supported quite strict gun control laws back in the 1930s and was against the sale of silencers until recently. Now silencers are marketed as “sound suppressors”.)

Wrting today, two days after that inauguration event in Washington, D.C., I have to say that this thinking about silencers weaves too nicely into the apparent thinking of the new president of the USA. The “new normal” has to be challenged. Pushing for silencers ‘on demand’ to protect hearing damage is right up there with the idea that arming teachers in schools will decrease the number of deaths from school shootings. Can’t they see that this is NOT normal, or logical, or safe? Rather it is insane?

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Ancient Sounds

Ancient Sounds


Welcome to the Noise Curmudgeon in 2017!  Happy New Year!

This blog is primarily about noise and its impact on the world, especially on humans. Yet I also post about music/sound production, which may or may not be classified as “noise”. (As always, what is ‘noise’ to one person can be ‘music’ to another.)

Thanks to the sleuthing skills of my dear wife Mary, today’s post is about a bone flute that was made in China about 9,000 years ago. This recently discovered flute, made from a bird’s bone, has enough holes drilled in it to create an octave of notes.

Not only can you see pictures of it – you can hear how it sounded.  (I assume someone actually played it in order to make the recording you will hear – though I am not sure of that. I think one would want to be very cautious about mucking around with a 9,000 year bone flute?)


This link also mentions other ancient instruments and music:  the oldest instrument ever found (a 43,000 year old Neanderthal flute), a piece of music written by Euripedes, and a 3,400 year old Sumerian hymn , the “Seikilos Epitaph,”.  Follow the links and learn more!

I hope you are as fascinated as I was by these very old sounds. Humans have created music/sound for thousands of years, and we will continue to do so until the end.  (Will the end be a very loud bang, or just a raspy whisper/whimper?)

May you hear wonderful music and amazing sounds in 2017!




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Gone, gone, gone

Sounds that have disappeared

If you are a certain age – probably over 45 or so – I think  you will be quite struck by the links below.  You will find sounds that used to be very prevalent, and now are almost completely gone from our North American world.  And if you have children, it is almost guaranteed they have never heard these sounds.

Check them out:

Museum of Endangered Sounds

And let me know if you can come up with any other sounds that have disappeared.


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Nightingale Floors

Last week my wife sent me a short essay that she had found. In the essay is a reference to “nightingale floors”. (Many thanks to Mary for sending this to me!)

What is a “nightingale floor”, you ask?   It is a floor that sings like a nightingale. Apparently.

Tell me more, you say.  Indeed.

In various ancient palaces in Japan, these floors were built as security systems. When you walk on them, they “sing” (of squeak, depending on how you hear such things.)  The most famous such floor is in the Nijo Castle in Kyoto, built in the early 1600s.

Here you can see the floor, from above and below.




According to Wiki, the etymology of the name is as follows:

“The first character (鴬) is read as uguisu and refers to the Japanese bush-warbler. 張り is read as bari, which comes from 張る haru meaning to stretch. Together this means “the sound of a Nightingale from the stretching/swelling/straining [of the floor]”.”

You can hear one of the floors here. You will notice how they really do sound like chirping birds!

Here you can watch a video of people walking on one of the floors.

Here you can read more about the floors and see another video.

One site asked the question:

“If your security needs are high enough that you decide to put in nightingale floors, odds are you also have guards keeping an eye on your castle. So how do you tell if those chirping footsteps you’re hearing are coming from a trusted sentry or enemy ninja?

The answer?  Quite simple, really:

“The solution is, like the floors themselves, elegantly simple. In order to tell friend from foe, the lord of the castle or captain of the guards would designate a set rhythm for allies to adhere to when walking on the nightingale floors. If they heard their “nightingales” singing at a different speed, they knew they had an uninvited guest, and that it was time to sound the alarm.” (

If you would like to learn how to walk across such a floor, like a ninja, and perhaps not get caught, check out this link, which shows you a basic ninja walking technique.



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