Joseph B. Cincotta

July, 2009

What is it?

Can we define it?

Is Noise harmful?

What are the effects of Noise?

Does noise have effects that we cannot even hear?


            Some time around 1972-1974, I became interested in the effects that noise had on humans.  Especially the effects of noise on employees in the workplace.   And, of the many effects of noise, I am particularly interested in The Non-Auditory Effect of Noise.

            The American Heritage College Dictionary, Fourth Edition defines noise as the following:

"1a. Sound or a sound that is loud, unpleasant, unexpected or undesired.

1b. Sound or sound of any kind.

2. A loud outcry or commotion.

3. Physics A disturbance, esp. a random and persistent disturbance, that obscures or reduces the clarity of a signal.

4. Computer Science Irrelevant or meaningless data.

5. Informal 5a. A complaint or protest. 5b. Rumor: talk. 5c. Noises Remarks or actions intended to convey a specific impression or to attract attention."

            I find the definition found in Human Factors Engineer, Third Edition by Ernest J. McCormick more application to my thesis.  He describes noise as follows:

    "Noise usually is considered to be unwanted sound, but this concept has certain unsatisfying aspects, particularly the question of the basis on which the judgment of unwanted is to be made.   A somewhat more definitive concept is the one proposed by Burrows [7], in which noise is considered in an information-theory context, as follows: Noise is "that auditory stimulus or stimuli bearing no informational relationship to the presence or completion of the immediate task."  This concept applies equally well attributes of task-related sounds that are informationally useless, as well as to sounds that are not task related.  A tying together of these two concepts would seem to be reasonable, by considering unwanted that sound that has no informational relationship to the task or activity at hand."

            One of the most important effects of noise is hearing loss.  Hearing loss can come from both continuous noise exposure, or from noncontinuous noise.  Riveting and grinding are examples of continuous noise.  Drop forge operation, gun fire, and artillery fire are examples of noncontinuous noise.  Hearing loss from either can be temporary or permanent.

            Other effects include physiological and effects to performance.

           Sound enters the body not only thru the outer ear canal.  Noise vibrations can enter and be heard by vibrations thru the small bones in the ear, as well as the skull and skeletal structure.

            Other noise effects result from physical vibration, physical noise/sound impact, and magnetic effects of electric/electronic noise.

            All electric wires, motors, transformers carrying a current load, produce an electrical/magnetic field around the wires.  The larger the motor or transformer, or the higher the current and voltage in high-tension wires, the greater the magnetic field, and the greater the results of being in that magnetic field.

            Most people have felt or seen the obvious results of this magnetic noise.  We travel under, and sometime live near high-tension lines, or walk past a large motor, or welding transformer, or seen a display using a Tesla Coil.  The hair on your arms, and sometimes hair on your head points in the direction of the field.

            But what else is happening to our bodies?  These are non-auditory effects.  The electrical conductive of the skin increases.  The blood vessels constrict.  Pulse rate increases.  Both the systolic blood pressure and the diastolic blood pressure increases.  Now scientist can see to the cell level.  Those readers that are old enough should remember the Geritol® commercials.  The level of iron as ferric ammonium citrate was 50-100 mg per daily dosage of Geritol®.  Yes, we have iron in our blood, and the iron in the individual cells will align with the direction of the magnetic field, just like iron filings sprinkled over the ends of a bar magnet.  I am unaware of any evidence that there is any long time adverse effect resulting from short term exposure to magnetic noise.  However, it is my belief, my thesis, that the longer the exposure time, and the greater the electro-magnetic field, the greater the risk of long term health risks.


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