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Boston noise study underscores health concerns we’ve known for decades

Re “In the ear of the beholder” (Ideas, Oct. 23), about Erica Walker’s study of noise in Boston neighborhoods: It has been known for at least 50 years that noise is a public health hazard, causing hearing loss, disturbing sleep, and causing increases in stress hormones, leading to diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and increased heart disease and death. Recent research shows direct effects of noise on heart rhythms, which may help explain the effect on mortality.

Since passage of the Noise Control Act of 1972, it has been national policy to promote for all Americans an environment free from noise that jeopardizes health and welfare. The safe noise levels are known: time-weighted averages of 70 decibels to prevent hearing loss, 55 decibels to prevent the nonauditory health impacts, and only 45 decibels to prevent interference with activity.

In addition, indoor noise levels interfere with understanding speech, especially for older people with hearing loss.

Walker’s work at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health clearly shows that Boston’s elected officials are not doing their jobs when it comes to making their city quieter. It’s time for Boston’s citizens to demand and work for quiet.


Dr. Daniel Fink
Jamie Banks

Fink is chairman of the Quiet Coalition, a program of Quiet Communities Inc., of which Banks is executive director. She is also executive director of the coalition.