Andersen: You say what?! |

Andersen: You say what?!

Paul Andersen
Fair Game

I don’t go to Movieland anymore. It’s too damned loud. The decibel level is enough to shake my bones. That’s the idea behind raising volumes beyond the tolerance of normal hearing. Theater managers want to shake, rattle and roll audiences with obnoxious levels of noise. That’s entertainment!

On airplanes, the pings preceding announcements jolt my eardrums, warning me to stick both fingers into my ears in anticipation of a flight attendant’s preflight recitation. Left unprotected, my cochlea are throttled by top-volume speakers blasting through the fuselage, infusing seat-belt instructions into my cranial cavity.

Motorized leaf blowers jar my sensibilities. They roar with a cacophony that drowns out everything, assaulting the senses with the sound and smell of two-cycle air and noise pollution. No one needs gas-powered leaf blowers. There are things called rakes. They are marvelous inventions with flexible tines and long handles. Operated properly, they collect and direct leaves into piles.

The city of Aspen had the smarts to ban gas-powered leaf blowers by a vote of the City Council in 2003. Unfortunately, the ordinance allows electric leaf blowers, which are almost as insidious.

Please, council people, how about just permitting rakes and brooms? These simple, effective tools have served man for centuries without assaulting sensitive ears and noses. While you’re at it, how about a ban on power mowers in deference to the push mower I use on my lawn? Push mowers provide great exercise, don’t burn fossil fuels, produce only the soft whirring of spinning rotary blades and still cut the lawn.

There is a long list of noisemaking contraptions and ridiculous labor-saving devices that squander sweat equity while assaulting the senses. If they were all prohibited, human progress might grind to a halt (perish the thought!). And what kind of world would we have then? A quiet, peaceful, beautiful planet.

The world is rapidly going deaf in a culture of noisemakers. That’s because we equate noise with human progress and individual rights. Ask any Harley rider about noise, and the answer you’ll get is the guttural rev of a poorly tuned, inefficient, unmuffled engine. We celebrate noise as we celebrate power — an authority beyond question or complaint.

I’m making this point because I happen to have good hearing, which is kind of remarkable given that I am a child of the rock ’n’ roll era. I felt the good vibes 10 feet from towering banks of speakers the size of refrigerators that blasted Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, The Who, Elton John, Mountain, etc., into my stoned-out audio receptors, i.e., my tender ears.

In the years since my rock-concert, hippie-festival, love-in days, my hearing has achieved a renewed peak of vibrancy. That’s because I wish to hear the sounds of silence — the songs of birds, the murmur of a river, the soft aeolian chorus of wind through trees, the nuances of a symphony.

The world is going deaf because earbuds have done universal damage and because the roar of noise is ubiquitous in unfiltered, unmuted rural and urban settings. Ever hear a dirt bike fill an entire mountain valley with the tinny din of a high-rpm mill? That’s one person raucously impacting an entire ecosystem for their own amusement, and there’s no pushback.

It’s all a factor of the Spinal Tap syndrome, where amplifiers are potted up not just to 10 but off the scale to 11! If loud is good, then louder is better and loudest is best. You haven’t really been to a concert unless your ears ring like the bells of St. Peter’s when you go to bed and try to sleep.

I suspect that earbud manufacturers have promoted “improvements” to their products by touting high fidelity with clear, crisp sound. B.S.! They have simply upped the decibels to give the perception of fidelity while dulling the hearing of most of the civilized world.

Industry has a stake in reducing our sensory capacities because the duller we get, the more we will need manufactured devices — hearing aids — to make up for our dimming natural receptors. You say what?

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Monday. He is a good listener and can be reached at