Just two words about air travel: ear plugs. A pair of 30dB plugs, available at any drugstore, means a factor of eight less wear and tear on your eardrums. More important, there’s less emotional wear and tear; even those who think of themselves as accustomed to noise show the same physiological signs of stress as the rest of us when subjected to it. With earplugs, I can get off a five-hour flight not feeling as if I need a day to recuperate.
The same goes for the gym, or any other place where you get bombarded with what no doubt someone thinks is music. I’ve gotten into the habit of leaving a pair of earplugs in the dashboard console of my car, just in case.
Noise (indoor and out) is a major environmental problem; under the Carter Administration, there was actually a move to take it seriously at the federal level (the Air Office at EPA was at one point “Air, Noise, and Radiation”), but that idea was among the casualties of the Reagan Revolution. I’d love to see real cost-benefit analysis of the new generation of sirens and the back-up beep-beep-beep required on trucks as a safety measure. And is there any real need for car alarms to make noise rather than merely flashing lights? Of course there’s also the music-club problem, where increasingly deaf bands crank up the amps more and more to satisfy increasingly deaf fans.
But since we’re unlikely to do anything about it through public policy, might as well take what steps you can as an individual.