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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

For Noise Awareness Day: Listen to Local Soundscapes

Urban dwelling almost always means getting accustomed to city noise. For this year's  International Noise Awareness Day (INAD) on April 24th, noise and soundscape experts and hearing health advocates put the spotlight on the impact of noise pollution on people's health, urban environments, and local economies with a day-long workshop hosted by the New York University (NYU). The workshop, entitled "Noise, Quietness, and the Healthy City" aims to provide updates on data and policies pertinent to noise, quiet areas, and their effects on community health.

"Peoples' awareness regarding the sounds that surround us 24/7 is still rather lacking," said Tae Hong Park, an associate professor of music composition and technology at NYU and one of the workshop's main organizers. "With the ever-increasing cacophony of sound that results from the ever-growing megacity phenomenon, the tendency to adapt, though a great human strength, can also lead to issues further down the road in the form of sonic wear and tear to the body and mind."

For those who live in busy cities like New York, concerns about noise pollution have become as complex and multilayered as the many sources of urban noise.

"The convenience of machines that we all depend on and need, e.g., subways, airplanes, automobiles, are sources that emit significant noise pollution," Park told The Hearing Journal. "It is clear that we cannot do without such technologies but there are ways to improve the situation if we can work together as a community in finding creative solutions toward some minimum peace and quiet in places we call home."

Some key approaches, Park noted, are to embrace new and creative technologies and mobilize community engagement. "These two will be focused on during the workshop," he said.

Focusing on actual noise and soundscapes in New York City, the workshop includes an outdoor "soundwalk" in the nearby Greenwich Village to explore quiet areas and capture data for crowdsourced noise monitoring apps, Hush City and Citygram, the chief architect of which is Park himself.

"To fix noise pollution in urban settings is very complicated, but what is certain is that it needs to be a multi-pronged approach that includes the preservation of what we already have and what I call a 3D approach: (1) data-driven, (2) community-driven, and (3) art-driven," Park explained.  

"Data-driven in a sense that you can't fix what you can't measure, community-driven in the spirit of doing it together as noise is spatiotemporally omnipresent and "does not discriminate" (one of Dr. Arline Bronzaft's favorite quotes I like to use), and art-driven where we also utilize the power of art to bring awareness to this urban pollutant."

To learn more about the workshop, visit the event website.