Clang, clang, buzz, bleep, thrrrrrump, thwack, vroom, whistle, sizzle, buzz, whirr, shrieeeek, splat, clatter, pop . . . All in a day's work.
Help! These decibels are killing us.
Well maybe it isn't that bad, if we don't, for example, work in a steel mill, a textile mill, a railroad yard or a . . .
Listen -- if you can -- the noise that's getting to us is probably not going to make us deaf, but it might:
* Raise our blood pressure.
* Lower resistance to other stresses.
* Chip away at efficiency.
* Affect our cardiovascular systems.
* Not to mention drive us up the old wall. (Which, in itself, can raise blood pressure and so on, and so on.)
There's not a lot of absolute proof available yet -- so far it has mainly been in the scientifically scorned realm of "anecdotal" evidence -- but a number of scientific studies are currently underway. Even though Reagan cuts will probably eliminate federal involvement in noise research, the results of the work now being done should provide documentation of the effects of rat-a-tat and its ilk on our physiologies -- not just on our ears.
Work continues at the University of Miami where Dr. Ernest Peterson and his colleagues published results last March in Science magazine of their work with rhesus monkeys and the effects of the "Today" show and other noises.
They subjected a group of monkeys to tapes of morning noises (running water, gargling, shaving, a radio, a shower and 20 minutes of the "Today" show). This was followed by sounds at an industrial work site (noisy, but below the unsafe-for-ears level), rush-hour noises and even those of air conditioner and distant motorcycles while they slept.
The monkeys' blood pressures increased an average of 27 percent. No hearing loss.
The blood pressures did not go down when the noises were stopped and were still high when they were checked a month later.
Since that study was published, the Miami researchers have replicated the study under an even more tightly drawn protocol. The results again appear to link the hike in blood pressure to noise.
Another replication of that study is being done on baboons at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Hopkins researchers are also using human volunteers to measure noise effects on blood pressure, hormonal changes and other physiological functions.
A study at Stanford University is attempting to measure how noise affects sleep. Another study, not yet begun, will follow groups of people in noisy and relatively quiet work environments and compare their health (but not necessarily their hearing) over a longer period.
Allen L. Cudworth, an electrical engineer and environmental health expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., is somewhat skeptical about the effects of noise, except on ears.
Ears, he agrees, may be in trouble in very noisy environments.
This may include Van Halen or a steel mill, a stereo at top volume or a furniture factory in full frequency. Cudworth's job is to go into a workplace and find ways to bring the noise down to bearable levels. His proposals could range from a simple one -- ear muffs -- to a complicated and expensive renovation of machine or entire operation.
"A good rule of thumb," says Cudworth, "is that when you are in a noise sufficiently loud that you can't talk to someone at arm's length without shouting, chances are that a significant number of people exposed to that level of noise will have some problems.
"This turns out," he says, "to be about 90 decibels. I've measured rock bands as high as 125 decibels." Van Halen is probably somewhere around 140. "You can experience this level (125) by driving through a tunnel at 50 to 60 miles an hour with the window open."
Cudworth also notes that people whose hearing is injured by long exposure to loud noise are less apt to be helped by hearing aids.
But people, Cudworth insists, don't want to lessen the noise in their own environment. "They tend to equate noise with power, so that a quiet vacuum cleaner would not outsell a noisy one because people would think it didn't work as well. Same thing with a lawn mower."
"That," counters a noise-research scientist, "is what they used to say about cars and safety in the '60s."
In a publication of the marked-for-extinction Noise Office of the Environmental Protection Agency, are these suggestions for quieting a house:
* Use foam pads under blenders, mixers, food processors.
* Compare noisiness of appliances before making your choice.
* Use insulation and vibration mounts when installing dishwashers.
* Be careful when buying children's toys. Some explosive sounds can cause permanent injury to young ears.
The Environmental Protection Agency's Noise Office has produced a number of informative and useful posters, pamphlets and booklets on the effects of noise and its abatement. Although they are no longer being printed, a limited number are still available. Write: USEPA, Noise Office, ANR471 Publications, Washington, D.C. 20460.