A quiet urban hotel

Photo credit: Patrick Pelster licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

My wife and I went to Palm Springs, California for a wedding recently. My wife knows that noise bothers me, so she requested a quiet room. She told me the reservations clerk assisting her assured her that wouldn’t be a problem.

I’m a little skeptical of assurances that noise won’t be a problem in a restaurant or hotel, but in this case, the clerk wasn’t lying. Shortly after midnight, I woke up. It was really quiet. The question popped into my sleepy head, “How quiet is it?” Then I remembered the NIOSH sound meter app on my smartphone, so I checked. The average sound level was an amazing 29 decibels.

It has been said that we can close our eyes, but we can’t close our ears. Only a few thousand years ago, good hearing was essential to finding food, finding a mate, for communication with others of our species, with nighttime hearing important for hearing an infant’s cry or detecting the approach of a predator or an enemy. Sounds as low as 30-35 A-weighted decibels* can cause brain wave arousals that have the same physiological impact as if one was rudely awakened. Good uninterrupted sleep is important for human health and function.

I’ve only recorded nighttime noise levels that quiet in remote parts of the world, so I was amazed that a city of 45,000, with about three times that many people living nearby, was that quiet.

Palm Springs demonstrates what’s possible. Maybe other cities can learn from Palm Springs example.

*A-weighting adjusts unweighted sound measurements to approximate the frequencies heard in human speech.

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