Noise -- It could cost you.

A man covers his ears.


STEVE CHITOAKIS: Everybody loves some peace and quiet. But acquiring quiet is harder for some than others.

Vermont Public Radio reporter Jane Lindholm considers the cost of noise.

JANE LINDHOLM: Living in rural Vermont, this is what I generally hear when I come home from work in the afternoon:


Yes, crickets. When I moved from Los Angeles three years ago I was looking forward to this kind of peace and quiet. What I wasn't expecting to hear was a death metal band setting up shop in my basement, at the invitation of my landlady.

LINDHOLM: It's 4:15 on a Friday, and this is what it sounds like in my apartment -- that would be the vocals.

Noise reaches the pain threshold at 140 decibels, and the loudest rock concerts hover around 135 decibels. The heavy metal I experienced wasn't technically painful, it was just bad music. But it doesn't take physical pain for noise to be more than a nuisance.

Every year, noise contributes to millions of dollars in lost wages and medical bills. Noise is a proven contributor to high blood pressure, cardio-vascular problems, and sleep deprivation.

Noise researcher Garret Keizer says people living near train tracks and highways may not think their sleep is being disturbed, but noise could still be making them ill.

GARRET KEIZER: So you could get up in the morning and say, "Well it didn't bother me; I good a good night sleep," but it still elevated your blood pressure.

In his book "The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want," Keizer says noise is an economic, social, and health issue. And one that disproportionately affects the powerless, like kids, the elderly, and the poor.

KEIZER: Some of us have more choice. So we can enjoy the exhilaration of midtown Manhattan, take in a Broadway show or a rock concert, and then retire to our quiet homes. But there are others who do not have much choice in terms of their acoustic environment.

In my case, a quick call to the landlady and a trip to the basement to kick out the death metal band put an end to my noise disturbance, making room for a much more pleasant one: Coyotes howl almost every night around my house -- now that the death metal band is gone.

In Charlotte, Vt., I'm Jane Lindholm for Marketplace.


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