Photo credit: Lindsey Flynn
by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition
There are a lot of noise problems in the world, like noise at sports events and rock concerts, transportation noise from vehicles, trains and aircraft, occupational noise exposure and now, pickleball noise. I am fortunate to live far away from my city’s pickleball courts, so unlike restaurant noise, this isn’t one of my personal noise issues, but it’s a problem for many.
Pickleball noise isn’t very loud in terms of decibels. It is instead the nature of the noise that’s the issue: impulsive, chronic and high-pitched. But there is also the frequency of these sounds. Four pickleball courts packed into the space of a tennis court has up to eight players instead of two, a much faster game and a shorter court. So, there is a lot of racket (pun intended) from hard paddles striking the plastic pickleball. Residents across the country who are living within earshot are reporting physical and psychological harm.
I have to admit that I’m ambivalent about the pickleball noise issue. I think that people have a right to quiet enjoyment of their own dwelling places, but any activity that allows people to socialize and get exercise — both sorely needed in the United States — is a good thing. I hope pickleball can be made quieter by changing the paddles and balls, and that sound-absorbing or containing solutions can be developed. I do know that the guidelines for recommending easements and the tedious work of updating 1970s-era noise codes are currently underway.
In the meantime, I want to let those bothered by pickleball noise know that you are not alone. There is a Facebook forum and a YouTube channel that both focus on this noise problem. It’s called “Pickleball Noise Relief.” Others are facing this problem, and they may be able to offer solutions that have worked in their communities.
There will also be a special session on pickleball noise at the next meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, which is taking place in Ottawa, Canada in May. I may attend if the abstract I submitted is accepted for presentation. If I go, I will be sure to attend the pickleball session to learn more about this relatively new noise problem.
I’d also like to thank Nalini Lasiewicz of La Cañada Flintridge, California for for helping me learn more about pickleball noise.