Ergonomics Can be A Noisy Problem


I hate noise. A lot.

Now, this may seen an odd revelation coming from an old head banger, but first, heavy metal isn’t noise, it’s music. Rap is noise. Neil fucking Young is noise, but Arch Enemy? Amon Amarth? Opeth? Apocalyptica? Music. Symphonic in structure, fiendishly difficult to play, subtle and multilayered. You know, music.

Second, even if it were noise, like, say rap, if it it’s not played too loudly, it’s not a problem. If it is played too loudly, doesn’t matter whether it’s Twilight of the Thunder God or Mozart’s Requiem, it’s a problem.

Granted, I’d take Beethoven’s Ode to Joy at ear-splitting levels before listening to a single note or Young screeching his way through Rockin’ in the Free World, or worse yet, any rap noise, but volume is certainly a consideration when determining if something is noise.

Basically, if it’s above 110 dB, it’s noise. Unless it’s rap, or Neil Young, or The Grateful Dead (overheard at a Grateful Dead concert, from a guy who forgot his stash, “God, these guys suuuuuuuck”) then it’s noise, even if it’s only 1 dB in volume.

Now, this isn’t a screed about how truly awful rap, and Neil Young, and the Grateful Dead, and the Beatles…and, well pretty much anything your boomer hippy uncle likes, it’s about noise.

One of the critical factors in setting up a comfortable work environment is controlling noise.

Yesterday one of my neighbours fired up a high-speed power tool, by the sound of it, a router. These things are nasty, the high pitched, whining buzz of the blade ripping through wood will drill right through your skull. I’m pretty sure it was overusing his router that cost my father most of his hearing.

Anyway, for three hours, I was serenaded by this horrible sound, and it was a major cause of disturbance, discomfort and distraction. In other words, a serious ergonomic problem.

I chose my working location, and set up my study, according to the principles laid out here, but this noise was something completely out of my control.

Or was it.

I couldn’t move my office for the time he was working. I couldn’t sound insulate the side of my house he live on. I was stuck, there was nothing I could do. Or was it?

No, I own sound cancelling headphones. And earplugs. So, no, it was not out of my control.

At the office, in an open office/cubical farm arrangement, one of the most important ergonomic tools I have is my sound isolating/sound cancelling headphones. I regularly wear them for more than ½ the work day, and most of the time without bothering to turn on any music.

It’s not about music as an aid to concentration, it’s about quiet as an aid to concentration.

So, get yourself a good pair of over the ear, sound isolating, and preferably sound cancelling headphones.

They’ll make the noise just…go away.

Unless you like rap, and if that’s the case, there’s nothing I can do to help you.