The rich tapestry of earthly sounds

Photo credit: Luis del Río

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Science journalist Dan Falk published a nice review of Caspar Henderson’s new book, “A Book of Noises: Notes on the Auraculous,” in the nonprofit digital magazine, UNDARK. I couldn’t find the word “auraculous” in any online dictionaries, but eventually found it on X (formerly known as Twitter). It’s a newly-coined word Henderson included in an earlier book, “A New Map of Wonders,” and it means: “of or concerning the wonder occasioned by sound rather than by sight; ear-marvellous [using the British spelling].” 

The book looks (or should I say, sounds) like a fun read. Falk notes that Henderson discusses the beauty of sound but also the harmful effects of noise. In a search for offshore oil and gas deposits in Tasmanian waters, a single air gun blast killed all the krill larvae within a kilometer, along with most of the plankton. Henderson also covers Arline Bronzaft’s pioneering research about noise affecting children’s learning in New York City.

My noise efforts over the last nine years have been dedicated toward making the world quieter. That first involved figuring out the safe noise level to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. Then, with the help of many noise colleagues, proposing the new definition of noise: noise is unwanted and/or harmful sound. 

As we enter 2024, I want to remind everyone that hearing is a precious sense. It is the social sense, generally not appreciated until it is lost. If we want to hear the auraculous sounds Henderson describes, we need to protect our ears. If something sounds loud, it’s too loud, and your auditory health is at risk. Turn down the volume, use hearing protection or leave the noisy environment.

And please join us in working to make the world a quieter, better and healthier world for all.

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