Cell Phones and the Rising Tide of Noise

MUST People Scream into Them?

Posted Dec 18, 2012

Cell phone madness

Cell phone madness

Since whales, porpoises, and dolphins are exposed to too much sound made by people, the U.S. government has a project of documenting and mapping underwater noise. Sea life is being damaged by “sonar blasts of military exercises, booms from air guns used in oil and gas exploration, and the whine from fleets of commercial ships that relentlessly criss-cross the global seas.”


I’m empathic to sea-creatures. I want to take care of their delicate ears and make them happy. I want them to mate, breed, and to never go extinct. This may sound like a spoiled little kid, what about ME and others like me? I am assaulted by sounds made by humans every day, too. And it keeps getting worse. It’s people screaming into their darned cell phones.


I’ve never seen an article saying scientists are trying to do something about MY delicate ears. Maybe I’m a spoilsport, but I used to be able to go to the airport early for a flight knowing I could take along a book and read until my fight arrived, for example. On November 30 I took a book to the Oakland airport to read. After five minutes, the man at the end of the row started talking loudly on his cell. I learned everything about his life. People were also talking to their neighbors but they weren’t screaming. They didn’t bother me. He thought he had to reach his friend all the way in Tulsa with his bare voice—this is the way cell phones affect people—it just is. The same thing happened on my way home from Phoenix three days later. A man was making a business call, then another business call. Loudly. I put both fingers in my ears and tried to read. It didn’t help enough.


Getting rid of sonic pollution would improve the quality of my life. My friend Hap has a black plastic key fob, called “TV-B-Gone,” that you can use to zap off TVs in hospital or airport waiting rooms. I would pay a lot for a product called “Cell Phone Jammer” but I think it would be illegal. How many times a week when I’m out for a stroll or walking to the store does a loud cell phone talker race up behind me and make me jump? Conversations between two people don’t do that—one person, unaware, talking into a cell phone too loudly does that.


Sometimes people put signs up near office desks saying NO CELL PHONES IN THIS AREA. But what about out on the street and in public places like airports? Can we force people to wear bubbles around their heads when they speak on cell phones? Can’t scientists invent a cell phone that automatically sucks up all the extra sound of the person speaking into it?


If “the project’s goal is to better understand the cacophony’s nature and its impact on sea mammals as a way to build a case for reductions,” why can’t another project have the goal of helping reduce sonic pollution for land mammals? I don’t propose robbing sea creatures to do this, but how about equal attention to OUR ears?

Quotes and information are from the Science Times of December 11, 2012: William J. Broad’s “A Rising Tide of Noise Is Now Easy to See.”


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About the Author

Elizabeth Wagele was the co-author with Ingrid Stabb of The Career Within You: How to Find the Perfect Job for Your Personality.

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