There are no alleys in New York City
I’m always surprised at how many people seem unaware of this. Even more, how many New Yorkers don’t stop to think about it. “Oh I thought that was just my block,” people say.
It’s something New Yorkers get used to quickly: every week, a big black plastic mountain grows curbside and every week, a big truck comes by and clears it away before you wake in the morning (or wakes you as it clears it because there are no alleys in New York City). There is no alleyway for this garbage to pile up in and hide away until the trash workers come to collect it. It’s not hidden away–its out in the open for everyone to see and observe.
What if garbage pick up ceased to exist?
Maybe we’d find a way to mask it — make a path through it or build structures over it so the ceaselessly piling garbage wouldn’t permeate our daily lives, wouldn’t effect our travel patterns, sleep schedules, or eating habits. But with each inch it grew, we’d lose a little sunlight, a little oxygen, and a little bit of the clean way our lives used to look. And sooner or later, you’d start to notice it as you were struggling for that clean air. You’d think, “how did I let it get this far?”
This is what’s happening with sound. The sonic garbage is piling quickly. The stuff that everyone complains about but no one seems to care enough about.
Ask anyone and they’ll agree: our world is getting louder.
As of this year, approximately 12% of the U.S. population (or 38 million Americans) have significant hearing loss (http://chchearing.org/facts-about-hearing-loss/#sthash.4VOHdOTG.dpuf). The human range of hearing is 20Hz to 20,000Hz, but not all humans can even hear all of that. More and more people are experiencing hearing loss every year and every day new sonic garbage is added to our lives. Vehicles, construction, electronics, humans themselves — all are contributing to this increase in noise that we can’t seem to escape, and it’s getting louder as the years go by.
Change Needs To Be Made, Not Masked
Educational awareness of hearing loss is becoming more widespread, as are the earplugs and various sound muffling devices people are utilizing to help mask this loud world. But why mask it? Like the physical garbage, we can’t simply walk around it. We can’t carve a path or push it to the sides, or hide it in this make-believe alleyway. We need to take action. We need to find our sonic garbage cleaners (albeit, quieter ones) and clear the sonic landscape.
When was the last time you took the time to sit and just listen? Put everything down (yes, everything) and just listened — listened to hear every sound? Binaural 3D Audio recording with Hooke helps make us actively aware of the sounds around us.
The first step towards making our world quieter is awareness. Have you ever just sat and concentrated on what you are listening to? Almost like meditating, you can sit or lay down and relax, just concentrating on sounds and where they are coming from. You can focus in on a sound and its source, and as you concentrate on one, the others will seems to fade away even if their actual volume doesn’t change.
We have to become aware to everything that is around us and what it does to us. We’ll never create change if we continue to ignore sound, if we continue to simply accept the heaping sonic garbage (“Oh I thought that was just my block,” “Oh I thought that was just the way things were”) or merely mask it. Greater sound awareness and true listening will allow us to determine how we want to coexist with our aural atmosphere. The way dimmers have become a common household feature allowing us agency over the types of light for different moments in our lives, we can create tools to design the sound in our lives. We can create an aural atmosphere that we can live in, that we are comfortable with and one we can create in.
If we start to become better listeners to the world around us, we can become better creators as well. If we sit down and take notice of everything that is happening around us, take in the sounds and not just simply push them aside, we can connect better with the world and be able to understand it better.
It starts with stepping outside and noticing the trash. So instead of plugging in your earphones and turning up the volume to ignore it all, maybe you could put them down and take notice of what’s going on. Not only will your ears thank you, but your later self will thank you as well.
From One Ear To Another,