50 years ago, noise was a nuisance (it still is)

Excerpt from the October 15, 1966, issue of Science News

Man wears earbuds

In 1966, noise from trucks and jet planes was a nuisance. Now it’s even harder to hear.


Noise Menace Threatens Man — Noise, forever bombarding urban and suburban man, is becoming an increasing menace to his psychological and physical well-being. Little cars with oversized engines, enormous trucks, sirens, construction projects and jet planes are exacting high prices in frazzled nerves, fatigue and poor hearing. — Science News, October 15, 1966 


Concerns about sounds in urban settings may have fallen on deaf ears: Noise levels have increased. In 1966, Science News reported that the “acceptable” noise level for a restaurant was about 55 decibels — the intensity of an easy conversation. Modern establishments routinely inflict between 68 and 82 decibels on patrons and staff, a 2014 study found. The cacophony from sidewalks, subway cars and earbuds may be taking a toll. In 2014, 17 percent of adults complained of trouble hearing, according to the National Health Interview Survey. Of those, 25 percent blamed long-term noise exposure. A good rule of thumb: If other people can hear the music coming out of your headphones, turn down the volume.

Bethany was previously the staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

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