Nfld. & Labrador

A hell of a racket: When you're powerless against harmful noise

Disruptive, ignorant noise-makers can sap all the joy from life, whether you're on an idyllic beach or in the safety of your own home, writes John Gushue.

Disruptive, ignorant, noisy people can sap all the joy from life

This bench sits on a hill next to Sandy Cove, with a panoramic view of Newman Sound. (John Gushue/CBC)

I want to tell you first about a little bit of heaven, and then relate a little bit of hell.

First, the good stuff.

The photo above is of a bench, but it's not in a park or a city or wherever you usually find one. It's placed, a bit whimsically, I think, on a bluff just by Sandy Cove, on the Eastport Peninsula, overlooking Newman Sound.

You can get there by climbing over the rocks off Sandy Cove itself, but for me it's the reward at the end of a short hike by taking a trail from another direction.

I've been going to the Eastport area intermittently during the summers since I was a kid, and our family has always loved the area. In fact, we'll be there later this month, as I'm starting my vacation just as you read this.

I can't remember when we discovered the bench, but this photo I posted in 2016 — with my son's excitement — says something about the joyful feeling of arriving at a place you crave.

So, yes, a little bit of heaven.

Unfortunately, one of the prices to pay for heavenly moments is some hellish noise.

I recall an idyllic moment at Sandy Cove — it really was perfect; clear skies, not a bit of wind, and not much of a crowd at all on the beach — that was completely upended within moments. Two young fellows riding personal watercraft (you may know these things by brand names like Jet Ski or Sea-Doo) came bombing up close to the beach, in tandem.

What. A. Racket.

Motors on personal watercraft can sometimes overwhelm people enjoying a quiet day on the bay. (Getty Images/EyeEm)

My ears still ring with the memory.

The two were, I guess, checking out the coastline, and maybe they were caught up in their own excitement, but as they bombed back and forth, back and forth, they filled the cove with a godawful noise. Just metres away from the shore, they swiftly moved back and forth, circling each other, and the noise was stunning.

No choice but to endure the noise

It was probably just a couple of minutes, but it felt like forever at the time. There was nothing we do but endure it.

We all know what sudden, surprising and shocking noise sounds like. It's come up again as an issue in St. John's, where residents of the Signal Hill Road and Battery area of St. John's have gone to council to complain about overnight noise and aggressive driving.

I'm sure you've encountered this: the driver or motorcyclist who tears up and down Signal Hill, making a noise suited to an army. Some motorcyclists appear willing to sacrifice the reputation of all users by removing the baffles from their vehicle. The immediate result is a massive increase in noise from the exhaust.

Motorcyclists believe they are gaining performance by doing so. They're also gaining the disdain of those they pass. I think that's the point, actually, especially when you see these dudes putt-putt through the downtown area. The taller buildings give echo to their machines, and it's impossible for someone not to notice.

It's also impossible not to hear. That motorcyclist's revving engine means my ears hurt.

Involuntary noise, at such levels, comes at a cost — and I'm not just talking about the lack of respect for others and a compromised quality of life for people who live where these vehicles love to prowl.

This cost is what it does to your hearing.

'Often unrecognized and untreated'

Hearing loss is, as a recent government study concluded, "often unrecognized and undertreated." Many people go through years of their lives not knowing that their hearing has been compromised.

Indeed, according to a 2016 report, "The majority of Canadians with measured hearing loss were not aware they had any hearing problems" at all [my emphasis].

The consequences are far more serious than a loss of being able to hear closely. Hearing loss has been connected with isolation and depression. It becomes much more prevalent as we age; about four of every five seniors between 60 and 79 have hearing loss.

We should all be thinking about our hearing and doing what we can to protect it.

So, if you're inclined to go to clubs with more subwoofers than sense, that's kind of on you. If you buy a car with a sound system that would work at, say, Mile One, don't be too surprised to find yourself being outfitted with hearing aids at a surprisingly young age. If you're walking around blasting sound into your ears from buds or headphones, enjoy it while it lasts.

It gets trickier when we're all subjected to noise, whether we like it or not.

Our homes should be a little piece of heaven. No one should have hell thrust upon them because of someone else's ignorance or spite.

Quote of the week 

Andrew Pretty holds the town's newest sign, pointing to Hollywood and proclaiming it a sister city. (Katie Breen/CBC)

"The teacher warned us to be very careful with what we were searching on the internet."

That's Andrew Pretty of Dildo, relating what it's like growing up in the outport with the curious name. Pretty is one of the "Dildodians" who have been featured this week on the late-night show of American comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who has been fascinated with the town's name. 

Pic of the week

A whimsical moment in Elliston, also known as the puffin capital of N.L. (Submitted by Candace Mugford)

We never get tired of photos of puffins. So small, so cute, so willing to have humans project their thoughts upon them. Candace Mugford captured this photo of a puffin holding a flower, and it just seemed to fit the mood of an August day by the sea. See it and more in our current gallery of photos from folks across Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Some things you might like to read or see

If you've unplugged this week … good on ya. I'm looking forward to a bit of that myself. Here are some of the stories we've brought you this week. 

Lisa Power-Mackey spoke out after a pickup truck owner brushed off her concerns about accessibility. (Submitted by Lisa Power Mackey)

When mom Lisa Power Mackey called out a truck driver for blocking a blue zone, she prompted a story that caught the attention of the country. It was one of the most-read stories at all of CBC this week. 

Visual artist Lloyd Pretty has a cautionary tale about advocating for your own health. 

There may be more food trucks in the St. John's area than you think. Here's food writer Gabby Peyton's guide

You could move to Ship Cove and cause a population increase of 33 per cent. 

Adam Walsh is back on The St. John's Morning Show, after working for a few years in Tokyo. [He ate well.] 

Fred the Cat was the subject of a Stephen Miller feature. Click below for the link. (Stephen Miller/CBC)

From rescue cat to farm cat

The Avalon Mall has been undergoing a $54.5-million renovation for months (I wrote about that last December, when the place was really in slings); this week, we found out Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M is finally coming to town. Also coming back: the Gap, and its sibling stores. 

The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival on this weekend; with that in mind, enjoy Matthew Byrne and his rendition of the tune Nancy From London. 

That's it for now. Enjoy your weekend!  

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

John Gushue

CBC News

John Gushue is the digital senior producer with CBC News in St. John's.

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