Health, Neurological, and Psychologically-Related Noise Complaints
HEALTH-RELATED NOISE PERCEPTION - CONTENTS: health & hearing-related complaints about building & house noises: sources of medically- or pshycologicvally, or hearing-disability-related noise issues & strategies for dealing with them.
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Health & hearing noise complaints: building noise troubleshooting: Information is provided about auditory (hearing), visual, historic, medical, or other clues of building condition that explain various sounds heard in buildings.
Here we provide a summary of key points you should consider.
Health related noise and apparent noise sources can involve common aging or hearing disorders, dementia, or other serious medical conditions.
Normal aging of people is often accompanied by changes in hearing and hearing perception. Neurological disorders, psychological disorders, or possibly other serious medical conditions can cause a perception of noise in buildings that can be very disturbing to the person suffering from these conditions.
Dementia can cause a perception of noise in buildings that can be very disturbing to the person suffering from these conditions.
Voices & Music: We recently investigated a case in which an elderly person in a Florida home had complained of loud voices and loud music for more than a year. Because it is normal for any individual's mind to find an apparently rational explanation for sensations that appear "real", the complainant was certain that the noise problem rested with her next door neighbor.
Consistent playing of the same song: The complaint that a particular musical song or work is repeated may be a clue suggesting that hearing continuous music may be related to an illness or dementia associated with aging.
When multiple locations produce the same noise complaint: But reports from family members confirmed that their mother had the same complaints in two other cities, one in a hotel, another in a private home. In those cases family members were certain that the sounds were not actually occurring. We recommended a medical consult. -DF
Variations in acuteness of hearing: We consulted in a different building noise complaint that was voiced by just one occupant of several in a home. Our client had consulted with his physician who did not find a medical cause for a hearing disorder. Before assuming that we could not help this individual we considered that because people's hearing sensitivity varies widely, together we needed to confirm that others did nor did not hear noises in the building. --DF
Noise-related stress aggravates existing disorders: "Although no one would say that noise by itself brings on mental illness, there is evidence that noise-related stress can aggravate already existing emotional disorders. Research in the United States and England points to higher rates of admission to psychiatric hospitals among people living close to airports. And studies of several industries show that prolonged noise exposure may lead to a larger number of psychological problems among workers." - "Noise, A Health Problem", US EPA,
Hearing disorders and even hearing aid malfunctions can cause a perception of noise in buildings that can be very disturbing to the person suffering from these conditions.
We recently investigated another mysterious music complaint involving the author's brother in law who wears hearing aids that incorporate a blue-tooth wireless function to permit easy use of a cell phone. But our brother-in-law began hearing music, intermittently. The problem was traced to his iPod that had been left on and transmitting music to his hearing aids. --DF
Sources of Mysterious Music Heard Indoors: check the radio
In addition to dementia that can manifest as delusional "hearing" of music, singing ("the Stars and Stripes forever, 24-hours a day"), and our brother-in-law's hearing aid tuning in to his iPod, we recently traces a very low-volume but continuous music complaint to a clock radio alarm that had been set to "music" at very low volume.
It can be helpful in tracking down indoor music complaints if you enlist the aid of one or more people who have very good hearing. Start where the music noise complaint was reported, and provided that the person with acute hearing can observe the sound, trace it directionally to it's source, perhaps first checking radios, TVs, and portable music players.
Sleep disturbance and noise:
"Human response to noise before and during sleep varies widely among age groups. The elderly and the sick are particularly sensitive to disruptive noise. Compared to young people, the elderly are more easily awakened by noise and, once awake, have more difficulty returning to sleep. As a group, the elderly require special protection from the noises that interfere with their sleep". - "Noise, A Health Problem", US EPA,
Night Time Hissing Sounds: Here is an example sleep disturbance report:
I am a senior citizen (68) living alone, here in the Poconos in Pike County. Please note, I do not have tinnitis For the last 4 years, I have been suffering with a hissing sound in my house. I tried to locate sound engineers, listening devices and the like but, have not been successful.
This noise always takes place in the hours between 9:00PM and 6:00AM and sometimes during the daylight hours. I have a fairly simple house with a sump pump which I just replaced, and a septic (grinder pump) that is approximately 24 yrs old. I am at my wits end and haven't had a decent night's sleep in all this time. Short of having someone spend the night at my house, I don't know what to do anymore.
It is very difficult to get competent people to diagnose this problem. -- E.R.
We suggested some simple first steps in on-site detective work to track down this night time hissing noise:
Have a good flashlight in hand
Turn off all electrical power at the main panel
Does the sound change ?
Wait a few minutes to observe
If there is no change in the sound,
Turn off all water at the water main valve
If there is change in sound, try turning off individual pieces of equipment in the home, or even ALL electrical power
Record the date and time of the noise at each occurrence, especially when it was first observed
Record What equipment is operating or turned off in the building
Record what weather conditions might be pertinent such as wind, rain, or freezing
Record what has changed in the building that might be relevant such as installation or removal of equipment
Record differences in noise perception between what is observed indoors, at different indoor locations, and outside.
Check for normal indoor hissing sounds such as heating system air vents (Heating System Noises) and air vents on water pressure tanks.
The steps above were not sufficient, as E.R. continued.
I followed your instructions:
I turned off the water at the main (left off fall Night)
I turned off the grinder pump (septic system) and left it off all night)
I turned of the electric fuse box and the noise continues
At my wits end....
I had a home inspector to view the property and he thought it was crickets.
Of course, we both know is isn't crickets...
I called the cable company, the telephone company.
People are going to think I am hard of hearing. NO WAY ...I do not have tinnitis
This is a real challenge and I don't know what else to do.
In difficult cases such as this one, having an experienced person on-site when the noises are occurring, possibly using simple noise amplification equipment to help determine the direction from which sound is emanating, may be the only way to both make progress and avoid contusing medical health concerns for on-site sound problems.
Other medical conditions: If you or someone you are assisting is disturbed by noises whose presence is not verified by independent third parties, we recommend that you or the noise-disturbed person check with their physician. In addition to careful medical examination, use of hearing aids or a white noise machine may assist in these cases.
See SOUND CONTROL in buildings
Shown above is the Sleep Mate™ sound generator produced by Marpac.
Hearing Disabilities and Building Noises
Hearing Disabilities and the ability to identify and track the source of noises in buildings can be difficult for the hearing impaired.
Even when a noise is present at a discernable level, a person with hearing impairment may have difficulty accurately pointing to the direction from which a noise is emanating. If you are hearing impaired or working with someone who is, recruit additional help from others and don't forget to consider that the apparent direction or source of a noise could be quite mistaken.
Also don't forget to check hearing aids themselves for noise sources; a poorly-fitting or low battery hearing aid may squawk, shriek, or emit periodic chimes, beeps, or with the newest units even voices announcing "low battery".
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Acoustical Society of America - http://asa.aip.org/ Elaine Moran, ASA Office Manager, Suite 1NO1, 2 Huntington Quadrangle, Melville, NY 11747-4502
516) 576-2360, FAX: (516) 576-2377 email: email@example.com.
ASA is an excellent source of noise and sound standards. Quoting from the associations history page:
"From the Society's inception, its members have been involved in the development of acoustical standards concerned with terminology, measurement procedures, and criteria for determining the effects of noise and vibration. In 1932, The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), then called the American Standards Association, appointed the Acoustical Society as sponsor of a committee, designated as Z-24, to standardize acoustical terminology and measurements. The work of this committee expanded to such an extent that it was replaced in 1957 by three committees, S1 on Acoustics, S2 on Mechanical Shock and Vibration, and S3 on Bioacoustics, with a fourth, S12 on Noise, added in 1981. These four committees are each responsible for producing, developing a consensus for, and adopting standards in accordance with procedures approved by ANSI. Although these committees are independent of the Acoustical Society, the Society provide
s the financial support and an administrative Secretariat to facilitate their work. After a standard is adopted by one of these committees and approved by ANSI, the Secretariat arranges for its publication by ASA through the American Institute of Physics. The ASA also distributes ISO and IEC standards. Abstracts of standards and ordering information can be found online on the ASA Standards Page. More than 100 acoustical standards have been published in this way; a catalog is also available from the Standards Secretariat (631-390-0215; Fax: 631-390-0217). The Society also provides administrative support for several international standards committees and acts as the administrative Secretariat (on behalf of ANSI) for the International Technical Committee on Vibration and Shock (TC-108)." - http://asa.aip.org/history.html
ANSI/ASA S12.60, Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for Schools, 2002.
 Connelly, Maureen, Hodgson, Murray, "Thermal and Acoustical Performance of Green Roofs", Sound Transmission Loss of Green roofs, [presentation, Session 1.5], Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities, conference, awards, trade show, Baltimore MD, 30 April-2 may 2008. Web search 4/3/2011 original source: http://commons.bcit.ca/greenroof/publications/
2008_grhc_connelly_hodgson.pdf. These authors provide an excellent bibliography of references for sound transmission in buildings, including some of the references cited just below:
Sharp, BH 1973, Study of Techniques to Increase the Sound Insulation of Building Elements. U.S. Department of Commerce PB-222 829, Washington.
Sharp, BH & Martin S 1996, "The Measurement of Aircraft Noise Reduction in Residences", Proceedings of Inter-Noise, Liverpool, 1996, pp. 2747-2752.
Friberg, R 1973, "Transmission Loss and Absorption Factors for Corrugated Steel Roofs, Insulation on the Outside", Proceedings of Inter-Noise, Copenhagen, 1973, pp. 213-217.
 Colbond, EnkaTech Note, "Acoustical Benefits of Roof Underlayments", Colbond Inc., PO Box 1057, Enka NC 28728, Tel: 800-365-7391, website: www.colbond-usa.com web search 4/3/2011, original source: http://products.construction.com/
 General Steel Corporation, "The Facts About the Acoustical Performance of Metal Building Insulation 2", Sound Transmission Class, General Steel Corporation, 10639 W. Bradford Road, Littleton, CO 80127, web search 4/3/11, original source: http://www.gensteel.com/insulation_facts-5a.htm
 North American Insulation Manufacturers Association NAIMA, "Insulation Facts #58: The Facts About the Acoustical Performance of Metal Building Insulation", NAIMA, 44 Canal Plaza, Suite 310, Alexandria VA 22314, tel: 703-684-0084, website: http://www.naima.org/
 Sarah Hager Johnston, Peregrine Information Consultants, Tel: 860-676-2228, Website: www.peregrineinfo.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Research and writing for insurance, risk management, safety & health, business, and medical professionals. Quoting: Peregrine Information Consultants provides customized secondary research, technical information, and standards, news, current awareness services, writing, and editing to support U.S. clients in property/casualty insurance, risk management and loss control, occupational safety and health, consumer safety, business, retail, manufacturing, and other industries.
Developments in Noise Control, NRCC, National Research Council, Canada, suggestions for noise control, sound transmission through block walls, plumbing noise control, noise leaks, and sound control advice. Web search 01/17/2011, original source: https://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/ibp/irc/bsi/90-noise-control.html
Thanks to audiologist Cheryl P. Harllee, licensed hearing specialist, for discussing noises and noise problems in preparation for this article. Ms. Harllee can be located at the Village Hearing Center, 249 U.S. Highway One, Tequesta FL 33469 561-744-0231
 "Localization of a source of sound in a room," W.M. Hartmann, Proc. Audio Engr. Soc. Eighth International Conference, ed. S. Pizzi, pp 27-32, AES, New York (1990).
 "Auditory Localization in rooms," W.M. Hartmann, Proc. Audio Engr. Soc. Twelfth International Conference, ed. S. Bech pp 34-39, AES, New York (1993). "Listening in a Room and the Precedence Effect," W.M. Hartmann, in
 Binaural and Spatial Hearing} ed. R.H. Gilkey and T.B. Anderson, pp 191-210, L. Erlbaum Associates (1997).
 Medhi Batel et als., "Noise Source Location Techniques - Simple to Advanced Applications", Sound and Vibration, March 2003, retrieved 4/23/2013 original source www.sandv.com/downloads/0303bate.pdf [copy on file as Noise_Source_Location_Techs0303bate.pdf]
Thanks to reader Sue Hazeldine, from the U.K. for discussing how she tracked down a whistling chimney noise to an antique hanging sign on the building exterior - 01/19/2010.
Thanks to reader Michael Anderson, 8 May 2009, for discussing clicking sounds coming from air conditioning equipment.
Thanks to reader Erna Ross who described loss of sleep due to a hissing noise at her home 06/15/2008.
Marpac, produces white sound generators, a product that they identify as the Marpac sound conditioner. Marpac can be contacted at http://www.marpac.com/ or contact the Marpac Corporation,
P.O. Box 560 Rocky Point, NC 28457 Phone: 800-999-6962 (USA and Canada) Fax: 910-602-1435 1-910-602-1421 (worldwide), 800-999- or email: email@example.com
Sound Oasis sound conditioners are produced by Sound Oasis: http://www.sound-oasis.com/ email: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-866-625-3218
Barrier Ultra-R super high-R building panels, produced by Glacier Bay, use Aerogel and are rated up to R-30 per inch, or in Barrier Ultra-r™ panels, R-50 per inch. The company also produces acoustic panels that are Ultra-db resistant and lightweight. Unlike the appliance insulation panels discussed in the original Q&A above on miracle insulation, these Areogel based panels will continue to retain some, though reduced insulating value if punctured, performing at perhaps R-9 per inch. The product is used in marine refrigerators, but in the future may be available as a residential construction product. The company is researching specialized products in medical, transportation, and aerospace applications. Contact: Glacier Bay, Inc., 2930 Faber Street, Union City, CA 94587 U.S.A., (510) 437-9100, Sales and Technical Information - email@example.com
Noise - a Health Problem - http://www.nonoise.org/library/epahlth/epahlth.htm - quoted below
Racket, din, clamor, noise. Whatever you want to call it, unwanted sound is America's most widespread nuisance. But noise is more than just a nuisance. It constitutes a real and present danger to people's health. Day and night, at home, at work, and at play, noise can produce serious physical and psychological stress. No one is immune to this stress. Though we seem to adjust to noise by ignoring it, the ear, in fact, never closes and the body still responds - sometimes with extreme tension, as to a strange sound in the night.
The annoyance we feel when faced with noise is the most common outward symptom of the stress building up inside us. Indeed, because irritability is so apparent, legislators have made public annoyance the basis of many noise abatement programs. The more subtle and more serious health hazards associated with stress caused by noise traditionally have been given much less attention. Nonetheless, when we are annoyed or made irritable by noise, we should consider these symptoms fair warning that other things may be happening to us, some of which may be damaging to our health.
Protective Noise Levels - 1979, basis for many local noise ordinances and codes - http://www.nonoise.org/library/levels/levels.htm This publication is intended to complement the EPA's "Levels Document,"* the 1974 report examining levels of environmental noise necessary to protect public health and welfare. It interprets the contents of the Levels Document in less technical terms for people who wish to better understand the concepts presented there, and how the protective levels were identified. In that sense, this publication may serve as an introduction, or a supplement, to the Levels Document.
"Measurement of Highway-Related Noise", US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/noise/measure/chap8.htm
"Sound Decisions" 9/85 p.11 and "Soundproof Room" in 5/85 p.7 in The
New England Builder, Box 97, East Haven, VT 05837 (802) 223-6123.
"Noise and Vibration Control in Buildings", Robert S. Jones,
McGraw-Hill Book Co., PO Box 400, Hightstown, NJ 08520-9989 #006431-8 [$47.50]
"Shoptalk", Builder Magazine, NAHB, Feb. 1986 p. 138, Martin M.
Mintz, AIA, Director of NAHB Technical Services - article about constructing
soundproof floors using wood joists and plywood subfloors.
Guide to Airborne, Impact, and Structure Borne Noise Control in
Multifamily Dwellings", Federal Housing Administration publication.
"Construction Principles, Materials and Methods", Olin, Schmidt, and
"Soundproofing a Music Studio", Gene DeSmidt, Fine Homebuilding,
Taunton Press, 63 S. Main St., PO Box 355, Newton, CT 06470 No. 35,
"Building a Recording Studio", Jeff Cooper, Synergy Group, Inc., Los
Angeles, CA, ISBN 0-916899-00-4.
"The Book Nook" - how to build a quite room, Rodale's Practical
Homeowner, October, 1987, p. 50-61. This issue, p. 98-99, has a good list of
manufacturers/distributors of a range of noise control products such as
acoustical sealants, ceiling systems, resilient channels, wall panels, window
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