The other day, my kids were having fun with their buddies, playing a board game. They had the stereo turned to a Latin American beat, which drummed away, sending my feet flying in the kitchen. I was fighting a losing concentration battle with a recipe I was trying to put together, while the music's rhythm vied for my attention with my twin daughters, who insisted on involving me in a block-building project.
Finally, I asked the boys to turn down the stereo. Their reaction? "Mom, you're the only one who doesn't like the music!"
That stung. Sure I like music, almost any kind of music. Love it, in fact. But when it's blaring in my ears I find the noise level unbearable. It really bothers me, to the extent that I find it detrimental to the harmony of my home.
Then there's my favorite coffee shop where I order my "Café con media lunas" (they make the best croissants!). I bring my laptop and hide in a corner where my kids can't interrupt while I harvest my thoughts. There, too, they like their music. And they like it loud. So I bring my ear plugs.
I began digging. How deep is the apparent indifference to noise that I sense in the people around me? How do children in schools handle noise when they, too, need to concentrate to learn? What about babies? How do they perceive the sounds around them, before and after they're born? And back to my son's comments, am I really the only one who's bothered by noise?
My findings were a loud, resounding NO!
Noise or White Noise?
There is a breeze rustling in a tree, whispering its song to the leaves. Water gently laps in waves by the sea shore, serpents its way, singing in a meadow brook, or roars in torrents down a river. That is white noise, and distinctive from noise in that it's a sound signal or sonic frequency whose monotony has a calming effect on people of all ages. This explains why so many lullabies, massage and meditation tunes simulate the gentle, continuous sounds of white noise. Babies, especially crying babies with colic, find music with white noise soothing and relaxing. Research has shown that a steady stream of the same peaceful sound can filter and mask distracting noises.