A noisy place

In A quiet place, horrible and hypersensitive monsters kill human beings who make any noise. May my peers forgive me, but I think the monsters in the movie have some reason.

I can’t be the only person who is bothered by the artificial noise that has become part of the landscape, a (not so) small discomfort we endure for the progress.

Cities are noisy by nature. Music is only “felt” when it hurts the eardrums, which is creating a generation of deaf people. We have to speak louder and louder to be heard in increasingly noisy environments, a sonic escalation that does not result in winners or losers, only in repeated phrases in increasing volume.

Even occasional loud noises are harmful. In 2023, the New York Times used a professional sound meter to analyze everyday noises and what they cause to our organism. Planes, traffic, alarms, horns. It’s horrible.

I lost count of how many times I went to a noisy place and had to appeal to the “smile and nod” technique (and hope for no questions) for not being able to hear what people on my side were saying.

The ideal would be to redo the civilizing pact to agree with a voluntary ban on boom boxes on the beaches, limiting the maximum volume in headphones and other measures that would reduce the noise of life to the recommended ~70 decibels, the average volume that does not hurt the ears.

In other words, it won’t happen.

Then I turn to individual palliative solutions, which at least soften the noise and preserve the little that is left of my hearing.


Wireless headphones have become popular in recent years. It’s not hard to see them on the street, on buses and subways, everywhere. Many of them have active noise cancellation. Sometimes I wonder if people are not hearing anything, making reverse use of the headphones — reducing instead of reproducing sounds.

I’ve already considered buying one of these. I gave up. Buying an electronic that is impossible to recycle and that has a shelf life of two years conflicts with that stupid part of me that is bothered by the small aggressions to which we are induced, by the industry, to cause to the environment. My lonely boycott won’t solve this global-scale issue, but it helps me sleep better.

A good few years ago, by the way, I was introduced to foam hearing protectors as a solution for peaceful nights of sleep.

It was a revolution.

My problem was solved for 1/3 of the day, the part where I’m sleeping. It turns out that these hearing protectors are very efficient, that is, they soften the noise, but also the voices of people and other sounds that (at reasonable levels) I want or need to hear when I’m awake.

Last year, it was time to get to know the so called earplugs. They resemble the foam ones, but are durable and let a little more sound through at certain frequencies. They are made of plastic with silicone tips, similar to in-ear buds, but they are passive, that is, they do not have a battery, which means that they will not be in a dump in two years.

White man's face, with glasses and beard, with emphasis on a pink earplug in his right ear.

While the foam reduces noise by up to 24 decibels, the earplugs range from 16 to 18 decibels. In addition, they have filters that, says the manufacturer, prioritize certain types of noises, such as human voices or musical instruments.

I bought the model that prioritizes voices to use outside the home, in places like the feijoada bar-restaurant.

And… well, they work, but not without some issues:

If the bad point is that it works too well, the positive thing is that it works too well. I don’t leave the house without them anymore (even if they are in my pocket, just in case). I am often shocked by the volume of the environments having the earplugs in my ears. Unexpected concerts at lunches never caught me off guard again.

And the plugs are discreet. The color of mine (pink), the transparent acrylic finish and the depths of the plugs make them go unnoticed by many people. When someone notices, they believe that they are regular earbuds or hearing aid devices.

At the time, I found the price a little steep. Maybe I could use earbuds for that purpose too, I thought. But headphones with active noise cancellation would be more expensive and would stop working in a few years. The earplugs don’t expire.

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