Many people are remaining in the workforce longer than they used to, and all too often they are losing their hearing in the process. Sadder still is that the noise we subject ourselves to each day means we are often responsible for our own hearing loss.
Until the advent of artificial intelligence-based medical research, however, we did not know that noise has a direct effect on our bodies and our health independent of our ears, even if a person is deaf. Important research from the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed environmental noise as one of the leading Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) in businesses and homes. Since a large part of our time is spent at work, today more than ever, businesses are a good place to look for ways to reduce noise.
Fortunately, there are a number of methods, many of which are inexpensive, for business owners to make their workplaces a little less noisy. This article will discuss five of them.
1) Suspend Sound Clouds
Sound clouds, also referred to as acoustic ceiling clouds and sound baffles, are an important component in combatting workplace noise. Why? In many of today’s renovated workplaces, the ceiling is often left open with the deck exposed. That hard surface reflects sound and is the cause of both elevated noise levels and distortion. Sound clouds, often suspended vertically from ceilings to reduce noise, eliminate the need and costs of re-configuring HVAC, lighting and sprinklers.
Sound clouds, which come in a variety of materials, sizes, and shapes, help meet architectural design goals and even more important – they meet or exceed the acoustical performance of a suspended ceiling.
2) Install Soft Surfaces
There are two types of sound: airborne and structural. Airborne sound travels through the air — every sound the ear picks up is airborne sound. Structural sounds are vibrations carried through an object, like footsteps on a floor or a hammer banging on the wall.
Sound loves to bounce off and through hard, flat objects such as glass, hardwood floor and tile. Adding carpet, plush furniture, window trimmings and even plants can turn a hard, flat room into a softer, quieter area. Soft surfaces like carpeting, and vinyl flooring in particular, are ideal flooring solutions for noise reduction.
3) Lower Muzak Volume
Reports indicate that those ballads and other forms of easy-listening music piped into your workplace may do more harm than good.
Even if you do in fact enjoy (or at least tolerate) the Muzak at your work, what volume is it played at? Artificial Intelligence (AI) analysis of SDoH found that the relative risk for death by heart attack or stroke increases 14% for every 10 decibel increase above the annual average of 45 decibels daytime. Since the volume in a typical business office averages 55 decibels, the moral of the story is easy to see: Turn down the Muzak!
4) Turn Off White Noise Machines
Like Muzak, white noise is supposedly soothing. White noise machines produce a noise that calms the listener, which in many cases sounds like a rushing waterfall or wind blowing through trees, and other serene or nature-like sounds. Sounds good, so what’s the problem?
According to Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) research, white noise exposure may induce changes in the brain that degrade neurological health and compromise cognition. That’s not all. Additional JAMA research analyzed animal studies, which suggested that listening to white noise for long periods of time on a consistent basis can affect brain cells and cause tinnitus (ringing of the ears).
5) Consider Sound / Echo Analysis
Echo is the sound pressure reflected off a surface or series of surfaces, like a billiard ball bouncing off a rail. Resonance is echo amplified by the vibration of the reflecting surface. Therefore if the noise is 45 decibels, and the echo is 35 decibels, the total sound pressure is only slightly louder (around 47 decibels), BUT if there is a resonant echo (resonance) at 55 decibels, the total sound pressure will exceed 57 decibels.
While echoes may be desirable in some cases (as in sonar), they are undesirable when they are in a more closed-in area (such as certain phone systems in already noisy office settings).
Ears are fragile instruments. Damage results from both volume and length of exposure to sound. Very loud noises, or chronic exposure to sound even when it is not particularly loud, can wreak havoc on hair cells, causing them to degenerate. Once they are dead, they cannot be replaced, and auditory sensitivity is permanently lost.
Beyond the ears, we now know that noise pollution has both immediate and long-term health effects impacting the whole body. Noise pollution directly activates the body’s stress response, causing behavioral changes and high blood pressure now while increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke in the future.
Since we spend so much of our time at work, it stands to reason that we need to take reducing workplace noise more seriously. Doing so will bring more health and peace of mind to employees and customers alike.
Griffin Works offers Pawsitive Interactions with Service Dogs During Response Operations©, an audience-customized training that breaks down barriers by offering hands-on handling training and demonstrations with working service dogs for fire departments, EMS agencies, and public safety organizations.
Part of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium and home to the National Emergency Response and Recovery Training Center, TEEX has been leading homeland security training since 1998. The major TEEX programs include fire and rescue, infrastructure and safety, law enforcement, economic and workforce development, and homeland security. As a member of The Texas A&M University System, TEEX is unique in its ability to access a broad range of emerging research and technical expertise. Beginning with course design and development all the way through hands-on instruction and national certification testing, TEEX delivers comprehensive training through both classroom and hands-on instruction and as online courses.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) was created by Congress in 2000 as part of the Children’s Health Act to raise the standard of care and increase access to services for children and families who experience or witness traumatic events. This unique network of child-serving professionals, caregivers and young adults, researchers, and national partners is committed to changing the course of children’s lives by improving their care and moving scientific gains quickly into practice across the U.S. The NCTSN is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and coordinated by the UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS).
The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The EMI provides national leadership in developing and delivering training to ensure that individuals and groups having key emergency management responsibilities possess the requisite skills to effectively perform their jobs.
The High Alert Institute maintains a list of reviewed courses provided by governments, universities and professional organizations. This list is geared towards the non-emergency management person who participates in disaster planning, preparedness, response, recovery or mitigation as part of their job responsibilities.
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Koi need forever homes, too! For pond enthusiasts, freshwater exotic and ornamental fish may not be available through pet stores or rescues in their area. The High Alert Institute Aquatic Pet Shelter Rehoming Program will be happy to assist you in stocking your new pond or adding a new finned friend to your school. Coming soon – when you adopt a Koi from the High Alert Institute Aquatic Pet Shelter Rehoming Program, we can arrange for delivery to your door anywhere in the continental United States.
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Dumping of freshwater non-native species and exotic aquatic pets into wild habitats is a man-made disaster that is truly preventable. The Institute’s Aquatic Pet Welfare Partnership works to raise awareness and reduce the impact on healthy ecosystems through education, as well as rescue and rehoming. Joined by champions of animal welfare and environmental stewardship, this association of aquatic pet rescue operations and aquatic pet shelters across the United States aims to save our finned friends and preserve our waterways together.
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Make your donation twice as nice by rehoming aquatic pets and providing a rehabilitation companion pet to a deserving person, family, or facility. Sponsor part or all of a Joy of Koi Program pond installation – complete with rehomed koi – and give the gifts of love and recovery.
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Disasters are defined as situations in which needs exceed or overwhelm available resources. Some disasters affect an entire community, while other disasters impact individuals and families. Crises of physical or psychological health can be very personal disasters.
The therapeutic value of pets during illness, trauma, and recovery is well established. And Koi fish may be well suited for people who are not able to provide verbal pet commands or physically care for pets like dogs and cats. Koi ponds are also a source of beauty and peace, providing an ideal setting for quiet reflection or meditation.
We are working to partner with pond installers and aquatic pet rescues/shelters to offer free or reduced-cost ponds with rehomed Koi fish to people seeking this type of pet therapy.
Disasters disrupt life and impact our sense of personal, family, and community safety. Survivors and responders alike often are not aware of the emotional, psychological or spiritual challenges that they may face from disaster onset through recovery. With two decades of experience training responders and communities to prepare for the behavioral health aspects of disasters, we will continue to provide education and a curated list of resources to groups or individuals.
Non-medical factors that impact overall health are termed Social Determinants of Health or SDoH. Noise pollution, poor air quality, and poor water quality are three environmental factors known to have a strong link to overall health. And the same environmental factors that impact humans impact their pets and other animals in their care. We continue to assist in advocacy, education, and technology development to mitigate the impact of SDoH on humans and animals alike.
Our efforts in shelter and rescue are the main focus of our environmental stewardship, reducing the environmental impact of non-native aquatic animals being dumped into public waterways. The High Alert Institute also assists innovators with the design, development, and evaluation of green and renewable energy technologies. Reducing the carbon footprint associated with disaster preparedness, response, and recovery furthers our continued mission to mitigate risk and improve resilience.
We partner with public and private organizations, sharing resources and fostering partnerships to improve disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, and mitigation.
The High Alert Institute team has over a century of combined research experience in medical, nursing, behavioral health, and disaster sciences. Our team provides support to researchers and technology developers through comprehensive literature searches and reviews, as well as failure mode database searches and adjudicated reviews.
When disaster strikes, most aquatic pet owners have limited options to secure the safety of their pets. Sheltering in place may not be possible if there is no power to provide aeration and “pet-friendly” shelters do not include ponds or aquariums. Our goal is to provide an option for aquatic pet owners in need of rescue and shelter for their finned friends.
Our goal is to share our two decades of disaster readiness experience with animal welfare organizations, shelters, caretakers, and pet owners, as they implement contingency plans for natural and manmade disasters.