Let’s turn up the quiet. It’s too noisy to suffer in silence, but we don’t have to suffer silently, either. The time to speak up is now. We need to protect our hearing. We need to request—even demand—that unnecessary noise in all settings, both indoors and outdoors, be limited to safe, tolerable levels, no more than the EPA or OSHA thresholds.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires “reasonable accommodations” for those with disabilities in these public places, such as stores, malls, offices, banks, museums, gyms, and restaurants. Individuals with hearing loss, tinnitus, or hyperacusis have a right to expect it to be quiet enough not to hurt their ears or to interfere with communication. The easiest accommodation—which is free—is simply turning down the volume of the amplified sound. Other accommodations may include the addition of sound-absorbing materials or other modifications.


Modifications that would “fundamentally alter” the experience of most participants are not required. Some places are inherently noisy—where loudness is an inseparable part of the experience, such as at a rock concert or sports event—and it may not be possible to make the event quieter, but earplugs could be made available.

It’s hard to regulate individual behavior. People have the right to listen to loud music. We can educate leaders and lawmakers about the noise problem, so they can develop laws and regulations to protect our hearing.

The no-indoor-smoking movement may be the model to follow. In the U.S. we enjoy a largely smoke-free environment. We have a similar right to a quiet environment.

For outdoor noise, look up the noise ordinances where you live and learn whom to call when there is a violation. Civilian complaints will make enforcement authorities and elected officials will raise awareness of noise problems and may activate change. 

Source: Daniel Fink, M.D., and Bryan Pollard. Content is adapted from “Turn Up the Quiet” which appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Hearing Health.