There are many things that pollute our world, causing a range of side effects and consequences. It’s been established that air pollution limits our breathing and visibility; water pollution makes us sick and limits our water supplies.
Now there is a new “pollutant” that is getting a lot of attention, both for its purported personal side effects (such as an increase in stress, hypertension, and heart disease) as well as its overall perceived detriment to the surrounding environment: sound.
Noise pollution has been dubbed “the new secondhand smoke” by some experts, and brands are starting to take notice by introducing products that focus on reducing noise contamination at home. Consumers are taking action to protect themselves from potentially harmful noises the same way they did when secondhand smoke was still rampant in public spaces: filtering it out whenever and however they can. Texas is testing new “quiet” concrete to reduce noise pollution on major interstates. The potential for electric vehicle technology to reduce noise pollution is huge—turning noisy, heavy machinery and vehicles into quieter, less intrusive machines.
Of course, noise levels at home and on the road are not the only concern. Consumers’ attention to the overall experience of where they eat has brought the noise levels of restaurants sharply into focus. Both Zagat and Consumer Reports found that excessive noise is one of the primary complaints diners have—above quality of service, crowds, or even food issues like being served the wrong order. Enter SoundPrint, an app that is essentially a Yelp! for noise levels in public spaces. The app lets you rate and describe the noise level wherever you are, using a decibel reader. Similar to other review sites, users can access the database of locations to help them decide where to go based on the volume of ambient sound.
The tangible harm that high-decibel sound reportedly can cause has forced brands, companies, and services to rethink what considerations need to be made to better protect consumers, animals, and the environment from aural assault. Quiet is no longer just as a moment of relaxation or reflection, but is a factor in quality-of-life as a whole.