Hard of hearing

Hard of hearing

”How about making Bangkok less noisy, governor?” (Postbag, Jan 7), should be required reading not only for candidates but citizens as well. Last week, Outlook printed a worthwhile article called, ”All that noise is damaging children’s hearing”. I wonder how many people bothered to read it, and how many parents took heed, or related to the article seriously.

I am a trained clinical audiologist, (as well as speech pathologist). I deserted Bangkok for the quieter boonies many years ago. On my frequent trips (of necessity) to Bangkok, I notice how many people, including my friends, speak louder than in other cities _ a sign of possible aural damage. Most Thais do not even wince in high noise areas. They are oblivious to the noise. This, too, is a danger sign.

Many years ago, I took part in a study conducted to measure noise in New York City’s subway system. We found that trains created 140 decibels of sound as they roared through some stations. Many New Yorkers have a 10-15 decibel hearing loss by the time they are 18 years old. Do we want the same results for Bangkokians?

JACK GILEAD


City must get serious about noise pollution / I would like to add a few observations to the noise debate in support of the very reasonable appeal in the Jan 7 letter to Postbag.

I live in the vicinity of Lumpini Park and am annoyed by the frequent highly amplified announcements coming from there, always punctuated by a beginning and ending klaxon. Nobody living around Hyde Park or Central Park would believe me that such a supposedly tranquil oasis as a large and beautifully maintained city park as Lumphini is a source of noise pollution in Bangkok.

Then there is the army of whistle-blowers all over town. Traffic doesn’t improve because somebody blows a whistle, but more to the point, why not just direct traffic as, say, in hectic Rome _ by using your arms. Good for the circulation and no noise involved!

One of these days when the BTS has made more money it would be a great blessing to countless ears if the steel wheels were to be replaced with rubber wheels. Consider: the Metro in Paris which runs deep underground, still improves the decibel count by equipping its cars with rubber wheels. What a blessing that is, even if only for the passengers waiting on the underground platforms. Here, in my 14th floor flat I can hear every coming and going train all day and night as if I were living on 3rd Avenue in NYC back in the 1950s!

The crux of the noise pollution in Bangkok lies in the lack of enforcement. We learned in NYC that focusing and punishing all the small infractions of the law brought much improved law and order to the city. This is the only effective way to get to grips with the noise pollution we are all suffering from. It won’t get better until it becomes a real issue (just as the previous writer correctly identified with the cleanliness of Bangkok) and citizens become an involved and committed source against this modern environ mental hazard. Another good example was the infernal problem with dog poop in Paris. When the situation became intolerable the local government instigated a broad programme of cleaning up this nuisance and it created popular support and thus ensured major success.

Fighting noise is a cause to which everyone who still enjoys reasonable hearing should and ought to subscribe. It is a major irritation, if not worse, and unless it gets reversed it is bound to become even worse. It has nothing to do with the size of the city _ it is only a question of changing behaviour for the benefit of everyone.

ERNEST A HILTON

How about making Bangkok less noisy, governor?

How about making Bangkok less noisy, governor?

Published: 7/01/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/9253/how-about-making-bangkok-less-noisy-governor

Dear candidate for governor of Bangkok,I have received a leaflet outlining your policy if elected as governor of Bangkok and notice one glaring omission. You must be aware that Bangkok is one of the most noisy cities in the world. But you may not be aware of the extent of the suffering that this causes to all who dwell here. It is a long story and the complaints are many.

Consider the noise arising from the new airport, built and operated without any care for those affected by its too-close-proximity to urban areas. Nothing is being done to mitigate this nuisance.

A culture of noise has grown up so that every shopping centre, public park, children’s playground, hospital waiting area, train station, is flooded with competing and literally deafening sources of noise.

Apart from being a serious annoyance, the noise is a dangerous threat to health, as referral to documentation of the World Health Organisation will reveal to you. The problem is of such gravity that it is certainly imperative for you to include it in your policy statement, both under the heading of environment and public health.

May I suggest a defined overall policy of reducing the overall noise level by one decibel for each year you may spend in office? Over four years you will have reduced the noise level by 4dBs, which translates as a reduction in noise by more than one-half.

One wonders that many of your proposed policies must surely be outside the available budget. By contrast, the cost of the proposed noise policy is minimal. May I outline some very practical and simple measures which will progressively greatly reduce the overall noise level, improve the health of citizens, and save their being driven to distraction?

Make it illegal for any commercial enterprise to broadcast noise into a public space. Supermarkets and shops attract customers by broadcasting loud and obnoxious music at passers-by in the street. By all means let them ”entertain” those who have already entered their premises, and who have the option of walking out again if they do not wish to hear it.

In all spaces where people gather with the intention of talking to each other, direct that the maximum sound level must not exceed 55dB. This is the level where people separated from each other by a distance of one metre may still clearly speak and be understood. This applies especially to restaurants, school playgrounds, and the like.

Impose strict standards of noise limitation at night time in residential areas. The ideal should be to achieve levels of 35dB.

Ban loudspeakers from public parks. These areas are not fairgrounds but rather refuges where urban dwellers may escape from city noise pollution and hear the sounds of nature.

Take special care for the hearing of children so that no activity for them may have levels of noise which would endanger their delicate sense of hearing. Limit the sound levels available from personal players which are most destructive of hearing sensitivity. Give hearing tests in schools to all children and instruct them about the dangers of hearing loss.

Bangkok drivers are generally restrained in the use of horns. Mount a campaign to keep it so, as more crowded traffic appears to be encouraging more aggressive use of warning hoots.

Construct more sound barriers along the sides of motorways. Eliminate noisy motorbikes, trucks and buses which are the bane of our roads.

Initiate the drawing up of a noise map for Bangkok, as is now the practice in all major cities in the world. The map will indicate areas having the most severe problems and facilitate planning for overall noise reduction.

Reduce the currently permitted noise level of 90dB in industrial areas to achieve recognised standards of worker protection.

In times past, your predecessors seriously tackled the problem of litter and debris around the city, so that now visitors to our city praise its cleanliness. The problem of noise reduction is of a similar dimension, it requires effort and determination rather than a large budget. A legacy of noise reduction will earn you a warm place in the memory of this city.

QUIET BANGKOK

Hearing loss

Noise and Hearing Loss

Noise is difficult to define!

People who study acoustics define noise as complex sound waves that are aperiodic, in other words, sound waves with irregular vibrations and no definite pitch.

In engineering, noise is defined as a signal that interferes with the detection of or quality of another signal.

The combined disciplines of psychology and acoustics (psychoacoustics) study the response of humans to sound. They define noise as unwanted sound.

Is music noise? Is the hum of tires on a highway noise? Is the surround-sound movie theater noise? Is the philharmonic concert noise? And what about the accompanying beat for aerobic exercises at the health club? Sounds that are soothing for some are irritating to others.

An expert on noise, K.D. Kryter (1996) in his text, Handbook of Hearing and the Effects of Noise, (New York Academic Press) defined noise as “acoustic signals which can negatively affect the physiological or psychological well-being of an individual.”

Basically, noise is unwanted sound. It is a pollutant and a hazard to human health and hearing. In fact, it has been described as the most pervasive pollutant in America.

Noise in our environment affects physical heath. Noise also has psychological and social implications and affects our well being and quality of life.

Unfortunately, public awareness of the hazardous effects of noise is low – especially noise considered to be non-occupational. To this end, the fourth Wednesday in April has been declared International Noise Awareness Day (INAD). As part of International Noise Awareness Day, a “Quiet Diet” is encouraged and is launched by observing 60 seconds of no noise from 2:15 to 2:16 PM. The reduction, if not stopping of everyday noises around us raises our awareness of the impact noise has on health and hearing.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) more than 30 million Americans are exposed to hazardous sound levels on a regular basis. Of the 28 million Americans who have some degree of hearing loss, over one-third have been affected, at least in part, by noise. Visit the “Wise Ears” Web site for more information on noise-induced hearing loss.

Damage to the Inner Ear

Your ear receives sound waves and sends them through a delicately balanced system to the brain. Part of this remarkable system, the cochlea, is a chamber in the inner ear filled with fluid and lined with thousands of tiny hair cells. The hair cells signal the auditory nerve to send electrical impulses to the brain. The brain interprets these impulses as sound. When you are exposed to loud or prolonged noise, the hair cells are damaged and the transmission of sound is permanently altered.

Noise Levels

Both the amount of noise and the length of time you are exposed to the noise determine its ability to damage your hearing. Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB). The higher the decibel level, the louder the noise. Sounds louder than 80 decibels are considered potentially hazardous. The noise chart below gives an idea of average decibel levels for everyday sounds around you.

Painful

  • 150 dB = rock music peak
  • 140 dB = firearms, air raid siren, jet engine
  • 130 dB = jackhammer
  • 120 dB = jet plane take-off, amplified rock music at 4-6 ft., car stereo, band practice

Extremely Loud

  • 110 dB = rock music, model airplane
  • 106 dB = timpani and bass drum rolls
  • 100 dB = snowmobile, chain saw, pneumatic drill
  • 90 dB = lawnmower, shop tools, truck traffic, subway

Very Loud

  • 80 dB = alarm clock, busy street
  • 70 dB = busy traffic, vacuum cleaner
  • 60 dB = conversation, dishwasher

Moderate

  • 50 dB = moderate rainfall
  • 40 dB = quiet room

Faint

  • 30 dB = whisper, quiet library

Warning Signs of Hazardous Noise

  • You must raise your voice to be heard
  • You can’t hear someone two feet away from you
  • Speech around you sounds muffled or dull after leaving a noise area
  • You have pain or ringing on your ears (tinnitus) after exposure to noise.

Hazardous Noise

Sounds louder than 80 decibels are considered potentially dangerous. Both the amount of noise and the length of time of exposure determine the amount of damage. Hair cells of the inner ear and the hearing nerve can be damaged by an intense brief impulse, like an explosion, or by continuous and/or repeated exposure to noise.

Examples of noise levels considered dangerous by experts are a lawnmower, a rock concert, firearms, firecrackers, headset listening systems, motorcycles, tractors, household appliances (garbage disposals, blenders, food processors/choppers, etc.) and noisy toys. All can deliver sound over 90 decibels and some up to 140 decibels.

Read more information on noisy toys.

Can’t my ears “adjust” and “get used” to regular noise?

If you think you have “gotten used to” the noise you are routinely exposed to, then most likely you have already suffered damage and have acquired a permanent hearing loss. Don’t be fooled by thinking your ears are “tough” or that you have the ability to “tune it out”! Noise induced hearing loss is usually gradual and painless, but, unfortunately, permanent. Once destroyed, the hearing nerve and its sensory nerve cells do not regenerate!

An audiologist certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) can conduct a hearing evaluation to determine if you do have a hearing loss. If you are routinely exposed to noise, you should have your hearing checked by an ASHA-certified audiologist on a regular basis, at least once a year. In almost all states, a license to practice audiology is also required.

Physical Changes

The most notable physical effect of noise exposure is loss of hearing. Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) affects children, adolescents, young adults, and older adults. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), National Institutes of Health (NIH) the National Institute on Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have noted that, because of noise in our society, hearing loss is appearing much earlier in life than would have been expected just 30 years ago.

Noise not only affects hearing. It affects other parts of the body and body systems. It is now known that noise:

  • Increases blood pressure
  • Has negative cardiovascular effects such as changing the way the heart beats
  • Increases breathing rate
  • Disturbs digestion
  • Can cause an upset stomach or ulcer
  • Can negatively impact a developing fetus, perhaps contributing to premature birth
  • Makes it difficult to sleep, even after the noise stops
  • Intensifies the effects of factors like drugs, alcohol, aging and carbon monoxide

Research is on-going and continues to provide data suggesting the devastating effects of noise on health. Research is also investigating factors that may contribute to one’s susceptibility to noise induced hearing loss.

Other Changes

Noise can also hamper performance of daily tasks, increase fatigue, and cause irritability.

Noise can reduce efficiency in performing daily tasks by reducing attention to tasks. This is a concern of employers when it comes to assuring workers’ safety. It is also a concern to a growing number of educators interested in human learning.

Because of noise, we often find ourselves fatigued and irritable. We don’t even realize the effect until the noisy hubbub stops and we feel relief.

From another perspective, your own inability to hear and understand others clearly can cause you to feel angry and frustrated. Instead of accepting the problem is yours, you misdirect your feelings to others and blow up at them.

Noise also makes speech communication harder. More concentration and energy is needed not only to listen and hear over the noise but also to speak louder above the noise. As a result, voices can be strained and vocal cord abuses, such as laryngitis, develop. It is a physical strain to carry on even an enjoyable conversation in the presence of noise.

One demonstration of the effects of noise on behavior was done by recording how passers-by responded to a person-in-need in the presence of noise. While a noisy lawnmower was running, a woman with a broken arm dropped some books and tried to pick them up. No one stopped to help her. When the lawnmower was turned off and the scene repeated, several people stopped to help her retrieve the books.

Researchers have also looked at the effect of excessive noise in school classrooms and have drawn conclusions that are seemingly obvious, yet often minimized. In one study, test results of students from a school near railroad tracks were compared to results of students far away from the tracks. Students in the quiet school performed better on the test. Another study found that students whose classrooms face noisy streets do not do as well in school as students in classrooms facing away from noisy streets. Finally, another study demonstrated that noise distracts both teachers and students.

There is no question that noise is both a public health hazard and an environmental pollutant as well. Many of its effects are well known and many of its effects continue to unfold through research.

Protect Yourself from Noise

The key word in dealing with noise is prevention! We want to eliminate unwanted noise when we can. When noise cannot be eliminated, we want to keep it as low as possible. Here are some things to do:

Wear hearing protectors

when exposed to any loud or potentially damaging noise at work, in the community (heavy traffic, rock concerts, hunting, etc.) or at home (mowing the lawn, snow blowing the driveway, etc.). Cotton in your ears won’t work. Hearing protectors include ear muffs and ear plugs (not swimmer’s plugs), some that are custom-made and individually molded. This protection can be purchased at drug stores, sporting goods stores or can be custom-made. Check with your audiologist to find out what best suits you.

Limit periods of exposure to noise.

Don’t sit next to the speakers at concerts, discos, or auditoriums. If you are at a rock concert, walk out for awhile give your ears a break ! If you are a musician, wear ear protection–it is a necessity! Take personal responsibility for your hearing.

Pump down the volume!

When using stereo headsets or listening to amplified music in a confined place like a car, turn down the volume. Remember: if a friend can hear the music from your headset when standing three feet away, the volume is definitely too high. Don’t be afraid to ask others to turn down the volume.

Educate yourself

about the damaging effects of noise and what you can do to prevent your exposure to noise.

Educate others and take action!

Educate your children through discussion and by example. Wear your ear protection and encourage your children to follow your example. Provide them with ear protection. Remind them to turn down stereo headsets. A rule of thumb is that, if sound from a head set can be heard by others 3 feet away, it is too loud.

Be a responsible consumer.

Look for a noise rating when buying recreational equipment, children’s toys, household appliances, and power tools. Choose quieter models, especially for equipment that you use often or close to your ears like a hair dryer. If there is no noise rating, contact the manufacturer and ask for one!

Inspect your child’s toys for noise danger

just as you do for small parts that can cause choking. Remember, too, that children tend to hold toys close to their ear which can pose additional threat for hearing damage.

Have your hearing tested

by an audiologist certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), especially if you are concerned about possible hearing loss. Remember the warning signs of over exposure to noise.

Be aware of the noise in your environment and take control of it when you can.

Be an advocate for reducing noise pollution. Your county may have a local noise ordinance. Find out what you can do in your community to advocate for quiet. For example, some schools have set a decibel limit for the music played at school dances in order to protect the students’ hearing.


Be an advocate!

Remember there are no regulations governing how loud sound can be in public places such as discos, movie theaters, dance clubs, exercise centers. Work with owners, managers, and community leaders to create a healthier less noxious listening environment.

Workplace Noise

Many people are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work, including firefighters; military personnel; disc jockeys; subway workers; construction workers; musicians; farm workers; industrial arts teachers; highway workers; computer operators; landscapers; factory workers; and cab, truck, and bus operators, to name a few. And, they number nine million according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Continued exposure to more than 85 decibels (dBA) of noise may cause gradual but permanent damage to hearing. Hearing loss is accelerated by louder noises. Noise can also hamper job performance, increase fatigue, and cause irritability.

Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA ) regulations require that, when engineering controls and/or administrative controls cannot reduce noise levels in industry to an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA) level of less than 85 dBA, a hearing protection (or conservation) program must be established. A successful hearing loss prevention program benefits both the employee and the employer. Employees are spared disabling hearing loss and may experience less fatigue and better health in general. Employers benefit from reduced medical expenses and worker compensation costs. Overall, there is improved morale and work efficiency in the workplace.

OSHA requires a five phase hearing conservation program for industry:

  • Noise Monitoring

    Sound levels must be measured. Results are used to decide: (a) which employees need to be in the hearing conservation program, (b) whether hearing protection devices must be used or be available on an optional basis, (c) which hearing protection devices are appropriate for different noise levels of the facility.

  • Audiometric (Hearing) Testing

    All employees in a hearing conservation program must have baseline and annual hearing tests.

    Baseline audiometric testing helps the employer to determine the presence or absence of a pre-existing hearing loss and may assist the employer in determining job placement for the employee.

    Annual audiometric testing assesses the effectiveness of the hearing conservation program. Each annual audiometric test is compared with the emplpoyee’s baseline test to determine if there has been any deterioration in the employee’s hearing. There are no better alternatives than quality audiometric testing to determine if workers are protected from the damaging effects of noise.

  • Employee Training

    Employees involved in a hearing conservation program must receive annual education and training on (a) the effects of noise on hearing, (b) hearing protection devices (their availability to employees, their advantages and disadvantages, techniques for proper selection, fit, use, and care) and, (c) the purpose and procedures of audiometric testing. By being involved in education, employees learn how to protect their hearing when exposed to loud noise, both on and off the job.

  • Hearing Protectors

    Hearing protection devices should be made available to all employees. Mandatory versus optional use is determined by noise exposure monitoring. Hearing protection devices must be worn by employees whose eight hour TWA is 90 dBA or greater and by employees whose TWAs are between 85-90 dBA if they display standard threshold shifts in hearing levels. A standard threshold shift is defined by OSHA as “a change in hearing threshold relative to the baseline audiogram of 10dB or more for the frequencies 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hz in either ear.” Hearing protection devices must meet sound recution levels required by OSHA.

  • Recordkeeping

    Sound measurement results, equipment calibration results, and audiometric test records of employees must be maintained for specific periods of time.

    The skills of a knowledgeable professional are essential to assure an effective and successful hearing conservation and protection program. For the audiometric testing phase, OSHA specifically requires supervision by an audiologist, otolaryngologist, or physician. As a professional with specialized training and expertise in all areas of hearing, the audiologist is able to assist and guide industry for better hearing health of employees.

Home, Community, and Recreational Noise

Exposure to damaging noise does not come only form the workplace. If you use stereo headsets, operate power tools for yard work, have a long daily commute in heavy traffic, or use a number of household appliances, you still may be exposed to potentially damaging noise.

Recreational activities such as hunting, target shooting, motorboating, waterskiing, jetskiing, snowmobiling, motorcycle riding, woodworking, rock music, or stereo headsets are sources of hazardous noise. So are some movie theaters, home entertainment centers, car stereo systems, health clubs, dance clubs, bars, and amusement centers.

Just in our day-to-day living activities we can also be exposed to damaging noise when we use lawnmowers, hairdryers, blenders, power saws, weed-wackers, leaf blowers, food choppers/processors, and other convenience appliances.

Children’s toys can also be hazardous, e.g., toys with horns and sirens, toy vacuum cleaners and vehicles, musical instruments, talking dolls, squeeze toys, and battery-operated toys that emit sounds.

Dealing with noise and its effects is a personal responsibility, a work-place responsibility, and a community responsibility. The first and obvious rule is avoid loud noise whenever possible. A good rule of thumb is to remember that if you must shout to be heard, then you should be avoiding the situation or using ear protection.

Visit our news room for more information about the dangers of environmental noise and hearing health.

Links

Environmental Noise Regulation in Thailand

“Environmental Noise Regulation in Thailand”

Published on "Proceeding on Inter-Noise 2009", Canada, August, 2009

Abstract

The environmental noise regulations take key roles to protect and control noise pollution in the human society as known as “legal measures” bringing the scientific methodology of noise abatement into the practical situation. Like other societies, Thai society conducts many researches and comparative studies on environmental noise abatement in order to manage the domestic environmental noise pollution for many years. The environmental noise regulation in Thailand mostly lays down a set of noise emission control and ambient noise limits for protecting human hearing loss similar to the other national, regional or international regulations, particularly the exhausted noise from the end of pipe from various motor vehicles and inland vessels, since 15 years ago. The noise annoyance standard was enacted in 1999, influencing by measurement situation and experience in Thai society. This paper will visualize the structure of the environmental noise regulation in Thailand in present day and the future trends.

For more information, please send an e-mail to: Khun Krittika Lertsawat at k_lertsawat@yahoo.com

Hear for the future

HEAR FOR THE FUTURE

In support of International Noise Awareness Day, which was celebrated on April 29, here are the top 10 most quiet places in Bangkok

By: Oraya Sutabutr
Published: 30/04/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Outlook

Any Bangkokian would find it hard to believe that the city, known for its cacophony of loud noises, does have a few quiet places that offer us some peace of mind. And that it is possible to get away from the endless traffic jams, the loud department store music and their announcements, the neighbours’ powerful booming stereo speakers, as well as the TV commercials that stalk us everywhere we go, whether it be on the BTS skytrain or “Hello Bangkok” mobile TV screens.

Quiet Bangkok Group has scoured the entire city in search of these oases, hidden in this otherwise mad city. Here is our Top 10 list of the most peaceful places to go to – places where you can actually hear your own thoughts. Give yourself a much needed break and recharge your batteries from life’s demands at the following locations:

  1. Chulalongkorn University

    Thailand’s oldest and most prestigious university is blessed with a large piece of land, well-shaded by large trees. It is a unique oasis in the heart of Bangkok, right next to the noisy Siam Square, and is owned by the university, which is fully armed with powerful speakers that blast away pop music all day long. In contrast, the campus’ shady grounds invite the public to enter and take in the relaxing atmosphere. You can come for a picnic, bring your children to play on the lawns, or simply sit and read quietly under one of the many hundreds of trees throughout the campus. The best time to visit is during March, when all the flowers are in full bloom. Take in the pretty pink chong khos, purple tabaeks, orange kae sads and yellow nonsee flowers, which all come out to enchant visitors. While you’re there, you might as well visit the university’s well-stocked book shop and enjoy a bowl of noodles, or a shaved ice dessert at one of the eateries.

    Address: Between Henri Dunant and Phaya Thai Roads; Hours: 6am to 8pm, daily. (Some of the doors are open on the weekend.)

  2. Neilson Hays Library and Cafe

    Established in 1869 by the Ladies’ Bazaar Foundation, the Neilson Hays Library has served the English-speaking community of Bangkok for 140 years. The library was named after Dr Hayward Hays and his wife Jenny Neilson Hays, one of its first patrons and volunteers. To this day, the library continues to lend books in English, organise educational activities such as story-telling and children’s plays, and offer a place where artists can display their works. Within the compound, which is next to the British Club on Surawong Road, not only will you find the elegant neoclassical style building that is the library, but also a cafe overlooking a beautiful garden. It’s up to you whether to read quietly in the library, sit in the cafe to enjoy the view of the garden, or relax inside the art exhibition being shown in the Garden Gallery.

    Address: Surawong Road (20-minute walk from Chong Nonsi or Surasak BTS skytrain); Tel 02-233-1731; Hours: 9:30am to 5pm, Tuesday through Sunday.

  3. Book Lounge @ Amarin

    Book Lounge @ Amarin is a place that doubles as an Asia Books’ bookshop outlet and a pleasant coffee corner run by Blue Cup. Not only can you browse through books at discounted prices, you can also make your selections carefully while sipping coffee or herbal tea. What we find interesting is that when this place is set up for reading – lending some peace and quiet to its customers – anyone who comes seems to recognise this unspoken rule. As everyone else keeps quiet or chats discreetly, newcomers automatically do the same. This shows that we only scream and shout when we need to compete with annoying noises around us. When you have no need to raise your voice, therefore raising your level of stress, life just seems that much more pleasant and relaxing.

    Address: Amarin Plaza, 4th Floor (close to Ratchaprasong intersection); Tel 02-256-9111.

  4. Sueksit Siam Bookshop and Ratchabophit Temple

    This bookshop is one of the oldest in the country, offering a unique selection of books – mostly published by Suan Ngern Mee Ma – that really are nourishment for the mind and the soul. But the shop also offers food for the body with its variety of organic products and handicrafts. Try one of the herbal teas or fruit yoghurts while listening to spiritual music from India, Tibet and Bhutan, played softly to transport you on a spiritual journey. And the shop just happens to have one of the country’s best selection of music CDs from these countries. If you feel like soaking in the community around the shop, you should visit Wat Ratchabophit, which is right across the street, or you can walk over to the nearby market on Ratchabophit Road, where you can find just about anything you need.

    Address: 113-115 Fuang Nakhon Road (opposite Ratchabophit Temple); Tel 02-622-0955 or 02-222-5698.

  5. MRT – Underground Train

    Quiet Bangkok declares that the peaceful MRT is such a pleasant alternative to the noisy BTS skytrain. Those of us who are ready to abandon our cars and use public transportation welcome any chance to use the MRT instead of the BTS skytrain simply because we do not have to put up with all the constant ads, which we could otherwise avoid with the help of a remote control. On the MRT, instead of being forced to hear TV commercials trying to sell things we do not need – which the BTS skytrain does by shouting and playing loud music – the MRT kindly gives us a peaceful ride, especially inside the carriages. It is valuable time for those of us running from one place or meeting to another. We can carefully plan ahead our next task, free from the stressful traffic jam, pollution or deafening noises – a true luxury in this city of noise-makers called Bangkok.

    Address: 6am to midnight, daily; Visit http://www.bangkokmetro.co.th.

  6. Bangkokian Museum

    Few people might know of a group of three teak houses built around the time of World War Two, which are situated in a quiet and shady compound off Chalermkrung. This area is the birthplace and the current residence of Ajarn Waraporn Surawadee as well as the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s (BMA) local museum of Bang Rak. You might ask, “How come?” This is because Ajarn Waraporn has donated her very own house to the BMA site so that a piece of old Bangkok is preserved, and so that Bangkokians have another oasis away from the hustle and bustle of Charoen Krung Road, provided that she can continue to live there. Bangkokian Museum awaits you with its treasure trove of well-preserved old furniture and household items as well as shade under the huge mango trees. There is no entrance fee and you can even go there for a picnic or take a nap, as long as it is during opening hours. If Ajarn Waraporn is home, she might even lead you around the premises herself. The museum also ! hosts monthly cultural events free of charge for people from nearby communities and the public.

    Address: 273 Charoen Krung 43 (opposite Central Post Office); Hours: 10am to 4pm, Wednesday through Sunday; Tel 02-233-7027.

  7. Blue Door Bookshop

    Among the bookshops in Bangkok, few are independently owned, offering books from large and small publishers alike. In these shops, the books reflect the interests of the owners, and one such shop is Blue Door Bookshop. Here, you will find books that you might not find elsewhere and you can even suggest good books to add to the shop. Apart from the delightful decor and large glass panes framed in blue, there are plenty of tables, chairs and sofas where you can sit down and browse through the wide selection of books. You can choose to read alone over a drink or come with a friend for a meal or light snacks. Shortly after spending some time here you will feel that you are in the company of fellow book lovers.

    Address: On the corner of Ekamai Soi 10; Hours: 11am to 11pm, Monday through Saturday (with live music on Friday nights); Tel 02-726-9779.

  8. Peony House

    If you’ve ever wondered what a modern Chinese tea house looks like, then visit Peony House – where the East and the West meet with its decor and tea selections. Each kind of tea is served in carefully selected pots and teacups to suit its origin. Dotted with pictures of peonies everywhere, the shop consists of an elegant lobby, a lovely outdoor garden and a gallery. There is a place for everyone to enjoy a carefully-brewed cup of tea or coffee. Take the time to appreciate the gentle taste and aromas of teas, which will surely put you at ease and more relaxed. This is certainly one way to unwind and feel your body and mind become one.

    Address: Sala Daeng Soi 1; Hours: 7am to 8pm, Monday through Friday (Saturdays 9am to 5pm); Tel 02-235-5369.

  9. Amantee Art Garden

    It is with joy that Quiet Bangkok hears of Amantee, an art garden housed in a large compound that is truly one of a kind. You are invited to unwind with a cool drink in an enchanting environment of elegant Thai houses, verdant trees and a charming art and furniture collection. You can also enjoy art and cultural events held throughout the year. Or you can stop by the Le Cafe at Amantee, which is now open from 9am to 5pm for meals and refreshments. It’s definitely worth braving the traffic and the heat on Chaeng Watthana Road to get to Amantee and rewarded with a refreshing breathe of fresh air and perfect calmness.

    Address: 131/3 Chaeng Watthana Soi 13, Lak Si; Hours: 9am to 8pm, daily; Tel 02-982-8694/5.

  10. Agalico Tea House

    This pristine colonial-style tea house with high ceilings serves English teas, desserts and sandwiches, as well as coffee in a relaxing atmosphere amid a lush outdoor garden. You will feel like you’re heading back in time when we did not have to rush and could easily relax over a pot of tea and cakes. You can choose to sit inside among the white tables and chairs, or sit in the lovely garden outside. Give yourself a break and take the time to enjoy a nice drink and a cake without feeling the pressure to leave. Agalico Tea House is the perfect oasis of calmness.

    Address: Sukhumvit Soi 51; Hours: 10am to 6pm, Friday through Sunday; Tel 02-662-5857.


The writer is a member of the Quiet Bangkok Group. Visit http://www.quietbangkok.org.

Battling a barrage of sound

Battling a barrage of sound

Noise pollution in Bangkok’s commercial spaces poses an increasing threat to hearing,

Writer: Surasak Glahan
Published: 18/07/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News (Bangkok Post)

If you have repeatedly used the phrase, “What? I can’t hear you”, in noisy places like restaurants, gyms, shopping malls or on buses, you are not alone.

And if you have had to turn up the volume of your mobile phone to hear what is being said, you are also in good company.

So why are Bangkokians still tolerating excessive noise in places where they are paying for goods and services?

If people continue to put up with such unwanted noise, experts say they run the risk of damaging their health in the long run, which would cause other problems, such as deteriorating work performance, and, in the worst case, irreparable damage to their hearing.

The Pollution Control Department last year monitored street noise in 23 locations across Bangkok. Noise levels exceeded the acceptable limit of 70 decibels in all of the locations.

For city residents who are already suffering from the racket on the streets, noise pollution in commercial premises could double the stress on their ears and cause permanent hearing damage, said Suchitra Prasansuk, who advises the World Health Organisation on ear diseases.

During the past few years, the number of Bangkokians, especially young people, suffering from noise-induced hearing impairments has increased by about 25%, said Dr Suchitra.

“More and more young people are experiencing ringing in their ears,” she said.

“If things continue at this rate for the next 10 years, irreversible hearing disorders will follow. This can affect one’s studies and job performance,” she said.

If your radio and TV volumes are regularly high, you will disturb and damage your nervous system, resulting in a wide range of potential health problems – from sleep disturbance to speech intelligibility, and the inability to concentrate and communicate, along with hearing difficulties and other related ailments – said Dr Suchitra.

“Once our hearing has been damaged, it can’t be restored,” she said.

On top of the noisy environment, the growing trend to use mobile phones and portable music players for longer periods of time in excessively noisy places is worrying, she said.

Such use stretches the hearing system’s tolerance to its limits. People have to increase the volume of their music or phone so it is at least 10 decibels louder than the background noise so they can hear it properly, she said.

Dr Suchitra said the Bangkok Mass Transit System’s ongoing use of audio and visual advertisements in its trains and at train stations is another threat to the hearing of regular commuters.

Skytrain commuters are indirectly forced to tolerate an unhealthy levels of noise which can reach as high as 95 decibels at the busiest stations, she said.

“In such cases, they would need to set their earphone volume at the 105 decibel level to be able to hear the music clearly,” she said.

“Meaning they have a limit of two songs to listen to at a time (a journey) should they want to avoid hearing difficulties,” she said.

In 2006, Oraya Sutabutr and about 500 members of the Quiet Bangkok Club complained to the operator saying that quieter carriages must be made available.

The effort forced the operator to put a “testing” sticker on each of the TV sets. But all the stickers were recently removed.

The BTS operator refused to comment on the matter when it was contacted by the Bangkok Post.

But for Ms Oraya, that just simply means her plea for peace of mind has been rejected.

“We can’t stand so much noise. Many people are annoyed by it,” she said.

“At Siam station, noise from audio advertisements is so excessive since it has to compete with the street and surrounding sounds.”

“It’s an issue that no one has bothered to deal with,” she said.

Last year, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration received about 3,000 noise pollution complaints, 37% of which concerned noisy commercial premises, said Injira Niyomtoon, director of the BMA’s Environmental Sanitation Division.

“I am certain that noise levels in many commercial spaces exceed acceptable levels, which operators are required to follow,” said Mrs Injira.

The BMA has the authority to curb noise levels in commercial areas like cinemas, clubs, pubs and restaurants, and shopping malls. But in reality it is not easy to do so, she said.

Each district has only about 10 officers to oversee public health issues. They are all currently overloaded with work.

Consumers affected by excessive noise can file their complaints with the BMA via its 1555 hotline so that authorities can be informed and take prompt action, she said.

“But it won’t be easy to bring things under control. Like drivers who always violate the traffic law when police are not around, business operators tend to only stick to the rule of law when we make a visit,” she said.


Contact Buyer Beware: consumers@bangkokpost.co.th

BEWARE THE KARAOKE CROONERS

BEWARE THE KARAOKE CROONERS

When it’s 3am and your new neighbours feel so good they’re driving you out of your mind, try some Thai-style conflict resolution

Writer: Andrew Biggs
Published: 2/08/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Brunch

Once upon a time I was a trendy young expat living in a townhouse in urban-chic Samut Prakan. The townhouse was situated in a moo ban that may have had its faults – no trees, cracked concrete, frayed electricity wires that danced and dangled down like something out of a Stephen King short story – but it did have one thing going for it – relative quiet.

On one side of me was a pleasant family; the other side was vacant. Then a family with a young baby moved in.

One week later some blinking fairy lights were strung up outside their house, along with some dreadful bamboo chairs and tables. And then a big sign was erected from the second floor of their townhouse: “DRUNK MAN’S PALACE.”

I didn’t need witches babbling about the Ides of March to tell me something ill was afoot. Every night their house turned into a bar frequented by men who’d park their motorcycles and cars in front of my house, rendering me a prisoner in my own home.

This may have been bad enough, but then the killer punch.

One night, as I was sitting in my bedroom reading a tome on Buddhist dhamma, a noise emanated from the paper thin walls separating my bedroom from “DRUNK MAN’S PALACE”. A bass line, deep and rhythmic, slinking and thumping and slinking and thumping like a dangerous undercurrent coming in from the Great Barrier Reef.

My next door neighbours had installed a karaoke machine.

Now I don’t possess the gene that finds the karaoke experience enjoyable. There is nothing more hideous for me than sitting in a dark fairy-lit karaoke bar somewhere deep in the Bangkok suburbs listening to somebody castrating More Than I Can Say or flaying alive I Don’t Like to Sleep Alone. The girl in the short dress and strangling tank top sitting next to him smiles blankly and bats her eyes, which are sloppily encircled with Pratunam mascara, and wonders how much longer she has to put up with this aural obscenity before she can collect her tip and go home on the back of her boyfriend’s motorcycle.

I’m thinking along the same long lines as her, but nobody’s paying me. I’m the idiot paying to listen. It’s in such moments that I sit wondering, yet again, if I have finally scraped the rusty bottom of life’s barrel.

Singing badly has become a national obsession in Thailand. It’s even on TV. Have you seen Academy Fantasia, or AF, where Korean-looking Thai teens rape and pillage songs 24 hours a day on True Vision, the cable company that recently dropped BBC World because it was too professional and entertaining?

Every week AF puts on a televised concert, after which one of them gets voted off, but one is simply not enough. We need to euthanise the whole AF house, and soon. If you don’t believe me go to YouTube and watch some of their clips from their Michael Jackson memorial concert. You’ll soon see why we need to deceive a naive suicide bomber into thinking somebody is blaspheming the Koran in the AF house.

But back to urban-chic Samut Prakan of a decade ago, and for the next five nights I was subjected not only to the sounds of that ubiquitous bass, but of men and women attempting to sing along.

How do I explain to you the pain of being forced to listen to them? Perhaps you could take a cat and tie some fishing line around its tail in a slipknot. Now slowly pull on that slipknot – that sound, I swear, is what I had to put up with every night for five nights.

(Children who are reading this column, do not perform this experiment on your own. Ensure that at least one of your parents is helping you hold down the feline.)

The worst thing about living next door to a karaoke bar is that the music isn’t non-stop. Worse, the song stops – you settle into a moment’s sleep – and then BOOM-BUDDA-BOOM- BOOM-BUDDA- BOOM, as somebody else takes his or her turn to emulate the tortured cat, and you are left treading water in a sea of resentment, fatigue, anger and frustration. From 6pm to 2am.

This karaoke bar is not on, I told some of my other neighbours I saw on the street that week, but they couldn’t do anything. The husband was a police officer at an inner city police station, they told me. As for zoning laws – what’s a zoning law in urban-chic Samut Prakan?

When I went to see them the next day they weren’t at all the evil monsters my neighbours made them out to be. We’ll turn the karaoke machine off Monday to Friday for you, the policeman said with a smile.

Actually, I want you to turn it off forever, I said, also with a smile. The next two nights were quiet, but on the third night, the machine was back on again. The drunkards were out. The booze was flowing under the “DRUNK MAN’S PALACE” sign, whose blinking fairy lights were starting to fade, probably in protest. A drunken woman was singing so off key, even the wallpaper in my bedroom was peeling in a bid to escape. And I lay in bed, thinking: “Now what do I do?”

What I did was inadvertently very Thai and not at all farang.

I got out of bed, put on some clothes and went outside. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. The policeman was sitting with some men, drinking beer. I sat down with them and ordered a beer. We all chatted for more than an hour, getting on famously, without a word said about our neighbourly noise problem.

At midnight I excused myself. The policeman wouldn’t accept payment and I gave him a wai in thanks. And the very last sentence he said as I left, apropos of nothing, was: “Actually I’m looking for a new place to move to.”

One week later, the karaoke stopped. Two weeks later, the family moved out.

To this day I have no idea where they went, but I was very impressed with the way we solved this problem. There was no confrontation, no screaming, and in fact nothing was said at all. Each side had their guns to play – he was a cop, I was a print and TV journalist. But in our friendly silence, we resolved our situation.

I use this method as often as I can to settle disputes in Thailand, and I find more often than not that it works. Except in karaoke bars. No amount of Buddhist dhamma books can save me from the excruciating pain of listening to a drunken man singing Hotel California.

Oh, speaking of excruciating pain, you can release that cat now, kids.


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