The Sounds of Anything but Silence

A work crew of five in front of our house with a large machine that has a jackhammer on the front of it.

It’s not just because I’ve worked with audio my whole adult life, but that’s part of it. And it’s not just because I’m hearing impaired, but that’s part of it, too. We, as a society, pay too little attention to sound.

Unwanted sound. Surprise sound. Loud and obnoxious and annoying sound. It’s a big part of our lives and we almost overlook it. Take it for granted. Act as if it’s no big deal when it obviously is.

We have bylaws against using leaf blowers too early and allowing rock concerts to go too late. I try to warn my husband when I’m about to interject a sneeze into our day. But everyday, ordinary and occasional bursts of noise just pop the balloon of silence without so much as a “look out!”

Late one morning last week, Cuddles the cat took off like a rocket and seconds later the house started shaking. The sound was like a jackhammer on steroids.

It didn’t interrupt our work, surprisingly. Derek was out and I was writing, not recording.

I bounded up the stairs to see what was going on and there was a construction crew out front, tearing up the concrete curb in front of our house. None of them, wearing ear protection.

They did the same thing a couple of years ago. (It’s weird and I don’t understand it!) Our cars were parked in the driveway so what would it have cost one of the men to tap on our door and let us know what was about to happen? That it wasn’t an earthquake.

For some reason, there’s an echo on some voices in our neighbourhood. A neighbour a few doors away was on the phone the other day and I could hear every word of her conversation. Surely it was echoing back to her. It wasn’t interesting. I really didn’t want to hear it but there it was, in crisp, clean audio as I tried to read outside.

Taking Sound for Granted

They’re only minor, occasional irritants. But aren’t they everywhere?

Derek is one of the few motorcyclists I’ve witnessed who won’t sit and idle on his Harley because he knows not everyone enjoys the sound like he does. When he fires it up, he gets going. It’s just considerate.

Long before I had any inclination toward getting my bike license, I had a neighbour who owned a motorcycle. She was dating the guy next door. She’d fire up her motorcycle and leave it to run between our houses for as long as twenty minutes. I suspected then that she didn’t know what she was doing. Since becoming licensed and owning my own bikes, I know it for sure. Plus, it was just rude.

I have an advantage, though, that I didn’t have back then. If a burst of sound gets too irritating, I can remove my hearing aids and give myself a break in a world where sound literally comes out of nowhere.

8 thoughts on “The Sounds of Anything but Silence”

  1. At first I thought, given the timing, this post would be about fireworks,which sounded in my neighbourhood every evening, from Friday through to Monday.
    I understand both sides of the argument, but it’s ridiculous that the city puts bylaws in place which mean nothing. It seems to be a “catch me if you can” attitude, and so it will continue. At least we now will get a short respite until Canada Day.

    1. That’s true – fireworks are a great example. Those setting them off have a blast – pun intended – while we and our animals can’t escape the sound.

      There was a campaign here to stop people from setting off fireworks in May because they separate baby deer from their mothers and without them, the fawns die.

      But those who want to do it will anyway, no matter the noise or the cost to wildlife.

  2. Sounds took on a new perspective after I lost my sight for it now had to fill in the 83% of information gathered each day via visual means.

    Now a fact! When you lose your sight, your hearing doesn’t get stronger/better, you simply stop ignoring all those things you previously did because of your dependance on your sight(spouses not included). In addition, I went back to school and studied as a sound engineer a few years later.

    Now my phone, computer, clock, smart speakers talk to me and various other items such as appliances beep to advise and let me know what’s happening. Tuning life out is more a mental process than a physical process but down time turning everything off is serenity!

    “if you could only see what I hear!” A common quote I borrowed from an 80’s movie.

  3. Yupp, last summer City of Toronto came and held up half my street with vehicles – they were working on stuff across the way, but used our street to store their trucks etc. No notice whenever they do construction work or anything else for the most part – it’s annoying. They can find you for bills etc, but never for small reminders like this.

    1. My city of Toronto councilor sends out weekly E-mail newsletters announcing council decisions and any upcoming work in his Ward with links to where you can find additional info.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *