We’re Going Green!


We’re Going Green! It seems I see this statement everywhere I go.  It has become ubiquitous in a world where we’ve come to realize the fragile balance of meeting the energy demands of a growing population, while attempting to preserve our natural resources. I believe in the importance of energy conservation, am aware of my carbon imprint, recycle, and teach my children to be mindful of energy use. However, I think there are instances where energy conservation is taken too far. More on this later.

On Tuesday evening I flew to Las Vegas to visit a friend and colleague. His name is Julian Treasure. Julian was speaking about sound at a conference attended by audiologists, auditory research scientists, and other interested professionals. The subject of his talk was sound, noise and listening in the modern world. A topic I spend a great deal of time on myself. We were at a lovely resort with a minimalist architectural design. Julian and I spent hours discussing our mutual interests, namely listening and sound. In fact, if you’d would like to hear a short portion of our conversation, you can listen to it here on audioboo.

A day spent discussing sound really sets your attention to it. Which is why I am writing this post about a trend that is an increasing concern of mine.

In the elegant restrooms of this lovely hotel are hand dryers. Not the industrial white dryers we are accustomed to seeing on the walls of gas station bathrooms, but sleek European dryers that greatly appeal to my sense of visual aesthetics. You’ve likely seen them. They look like something straight out of Star Trek. You stick your hands inside and whoosh they’re dry! I think this is great, with one exception. THEY ARE LOUD! How loud? Well… to find out I pulled out my iPhone, launched a decibel meter app and measured. The result? Over 90dB at ear level! That is too loud, especially given that safe sound levels are below 75 decibels.

This level of sound is at minimum annoying, and for some extremely painful. I cannot imagine subjecting my nearing three year old son to one of these. Thinking about the many people we serve with hyperacousis (overly sensitive hearing), I cannot imagine what the experience would be for them. You might say, just use the towels if you don’t like the noise. And that would be a great solution. But this hotel, like so many public places, have removed towels from restrooms. You have no option to these noise machines, other than drying your hands on your clothes or shaking them dry.

As you see in the photo, the justification for these hand dryers is the preservation of our natural resources. OK, I get that. But how much energy does it take to force hot air at such an intensity that my hands are dry in five seconds flat and it makes my ears ring? My ears are a precious natural resource!

I’m not alone in my concern. When I posted this picture on Facebook Tuesday evening it got quite a response.

Do you agree this is a problem? Please share your comments.

3 thoughts on “We’re Going Green!

  1. Hilda says:

    I support the elimination of these intrusions to our senses! They are extremely loud and according to a study I read recently, are not as sanitary as paper towels.

  2. Jennifer Fountain says:

    Hi i am a mother of two, both have developmental issues. i have also had sensitivity to sound and the even 5 min of the listening program feels like 6 hours at the gym. I am not surprised that you have found these handryers are harmful, i have to get out of the restrooms because those hand dryers hurt my ears. Now they have them in the school. Interesting about the safety level of the sound, how did they pass OH&S. We have a lot of children with Auditory & sensory processing, along with Autism, it must hurt their ears as well.

    As great as ipads are for communication, has any studies been done on the way the sound creates addictive behaviour, i don’t believe it is all visual.

    Kind regards Jenny (Australia)

    • Alex Doman says:

      Jenny, Thank you for taking the time to comment. As you shared, being a sound sensitive person yourself, these forced air hand dryers are intolerable for many. They are likely skating past safety standards because of the short duration of noise exposure. Regardless, the sound level is at a minimum annoying, to a child can be frightening, and to many toxic, triggering fight/flight responses sending stress levels through the roof.

      Your question about sound creating addictive behavior is not something I had considered. So, I just did a quick Google Scholar literature review. No studies came up in my brief search that look specifically at sound addiction. However, you likely know internet addiction has been studied and there is neuroscientific evidence supporting the fact the people can and do become addicted to the internet, video games,etc. You may find this review of the recent neuroscience of interest Internet and computer game addiction – a review of current neuroscientific research

      iPads are great tools, I love them and we use them in our family. But as with any stimulant there is a potential for addiction, so we use on a limited basis and monitor content. It really is the content that drives the behavior not the device in and of itself.

      Be well,

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