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By Dr. Jo Gjelsten


My favorite button on the TV remote is the mute button. As the commercials get louder the button gets worn down a little more.  Every single commercial break has banging and banging head-banging “hard rock” background music for years now, with their commercials BLARING on the top of their lungs, much LOUDER THAN THE PROGRAM, so you can hear it through the bathroom door because they know we who must watch TV HAVE A HEARING LOSS NOW AFTER YEARS OF THIS! Without the mute button this drumming noise always gives me a sensation that my head is banging against the wall. Or is it just me?  Ok, I happen to like classic rock, and I do turn up the volume for that music from time to time when I’m alone in the little toy box I call my truck, because that’s what it is. That’s different. Why? I don’t know, but I’ll think of something. Ok, it brings me back to a time when rock music was the loudest noise you heard really, so it was a symbol of freedom, fun loving rebellion in the midst of all that boring and quiet TV and news.  Given that we’re so plugged into our “smarter than us” phones (I saw my garbage man looking down at his phone between stops this morning, or maybe he was pulling up his fly), are we really paying attention anything real anymore? Why, I ask the air, do we have to have these “in your face, and ears” noisy commercials? I believe it’s because our threshold for paying attention has been raised so high by too much coming at us over the years. It now takes a nuclear, or noock-you-lar, should you wish to mispronounce it, (a former professor used to say), explosion of noise just to lift our chins from the hand held devices we have and hold and live and breathe by, to say “whah”?  (Ear bud deafness syndrome, really. I can’t hear my ear buds, can you?). So “whah” does all this noise coming from commercials do to us you may wonder?  It MAKES US MAD and We’re Not Gonna Take It Anymore! In fact, so many of us hate this, that the FCC decided to enact “The CALM  Act”, an acronym for  “Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, howdayalikethat! This act goes into effect Dec. 12 or so, of this year so for the holidays you can remove your earplugs and earmuffs, Muffy.  Your other option is to set limits through your “equipment”, but it depends on how much money you’ve spent and how hard it is for you to push that mute button all by yourself. Now the “guhmment” can do its part to unpiss us off. Here ya’ go!  According to the FCC, ” If You Have a Complaint” (hahaha! Who doesn’t?)  Once the rules are in effect, when sending your complaint to the FCC, please include the time, channel, a description of the commercial, whether you are watching pay TV or broadcast television using an antenna, (what’s that?)  your contact information, your favorite fried foods, and who you voted for on Dancing With The Stars;  ”You can file your complaint with the FCC's Consumer Call Center at 1-888-CALL-FCCHAHA (1-888-225-5322haha) or you can snail mail the FCC if you must; look it up yourself. Then we can only hope, and try to stay CALM. Of course if it’s a “financial hardship” for a broadcaster they have a year to get the equipment to “comply” which strikes me funny for some reason, go figure; this equipment must be really hard to reason with. All this pollution of noise causes the Lombard Effect. Translation:  “Unwanted noise causes species to communicate louder”. Really, Lombard? So, while all that screaming coming from your neighbors’ house may be due to a lot of sex, they also might be two, or some, of the 20 million of humanity who hear less and are really just taking off their shoes. But it’s not just those folks who remember Ms. Lombard who are sayin’ “hah?” Kids and young adults are losing some of their hearing too. How might this happen? We are programmed to raise a built in alarm at loud noises, so our autonomic nervous system goes into flight or fight, which, especially in kids, raises adrenaline levels, just what Moms everywhere need. That can raise cortisol levels on a chronic basis, which lowers the thyroid hormone, so now the kids are getting fatter, so it’s harder to run in gym class. Or recess. That’s an ancient ritual where kids used to go outside and play. Vat else? Excess noise can lower ones immune system, especially if that noise is coming from ones relatives. (And one study says that the combined effects of noise, and say, cold are greater than the two by themselves, so stay inside and away from the cold and ones relatives. Eskimos have a really hard time with this). So excess noise is dangerous to our bodies Buddy, and we’re not alone! Fish, too, are covering their little fishy ears. In fact, in one study by a fish person, it was observed that when they’re “exposed to even brief noise playback (of speedboat noise) the fish made more foraging mistakes” “affecting the risk of predation”. Translation: A scary loud noise distracts fish and for that we needed an expensive study. Result: fish got caught by other fish. What, Dr. Jo, can we learn from this you ask? Well Ebenezer fishing person, if you forget your fishing pole just stick your head under water and mimic an outboard motor. Don’t forget to breathe while you’re down there. Back to noise. For adults too, all of that chronic racket can raise blood pressure, and diminish the ability for many of us to think, which is why I have to write this in my quiet office on a day off.  But for those of you reading this article in a nice coffee shop the good news is there’s a study that showed creativity can actually be enhanced by THE RIGHT AMOUNT of noise, concluding that “a moderate level of noise produces just enough distraction to lead to higher creativity, but a very high level of noise induces too much distraction, which actually reduces the amount of processing, thus leading to lower creativity." To me that means if you’re creating something in a coffee shop you can tell loud people to shut up and your Starbucks bucks should be tax deductable I’m thinking. What about hearing damage from too much noise? I SAID WHAT ABOUT HEARING LOSS FROM TOO MUCH NOISE!? Well, the other good news is that in New Zealand, a new drug called ADAC restored hearing in rats with “noise induced hearing loss” when injected soon after loud noise exposure. The rats cried their little ratty eyes out though when they tried to tear away their tiny little earbuds after they got addicted to Lady Gaga.   Shshsh!! I’m writin’ heah!  www.GoDrJo.com Copy right, I say!

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August 11, 2016
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Joanne Gjelsten

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