One of the first things you notice when you step inside a luxury hotel is the expensive arrangement of fresh flowers. The second thing is the hush.
Peace and quiet are indeed a luxury and a rarity in both urban and rural settings. These days you have to go pretty far afield for the privilege of hearing a pin drop. At first glance (listen?), cities seem the worst culprits of noise pollution: ambulance sirens, jack hammers, car horns, jingles, beeps and buzzes from cell phones…But country life, too, is full of charmless soundtracks such as leaf and snowblowers, motorboats, snowmobiles, dune buggies, and the blare from outdoor stereos.
More than merely an annoyance, the inexorable parade of noxious sounds and our powerlessness against them, has been proven to contribute to myriad health and social problems—everything from cardiovascular disease to violence, as well as poor scholastic performance. Elevated noise levels cause our bodies to release adrenaline creating a ‘fight or flight’ response. They also elevate blood pressure which stays high long after the sound level has been reduced.
Numerous studies involving people who live on flight-paths near major airports have shown an increase in the quantity of anti-hypertensive drug prescriptions, as well as peptic ulcers, cardiovascular deaths, strokes, suicides and murders. Some researchers believe that noise reduces our immune response, making us more vulnerable to diseases. It also makes us more prone to react aggressively when we’re angry.
And, humans aren’t the only sufferers. For example, whales who communicate via low frequencies—the same as the noise from ships—exhibit higher levels of stress hormones, travel greater distances to avoid the racket and reduce their own calls in areas dense with commercial traffic such as the Bay of Fundy.
But where there’s a problem, there’s a potential solution. (At least for the humans.) That’s as long as you can pay for it. And because living full-time at The Four Seasons is not an option for most, manufacturers are building homes and appliances that are ‘whisper quiet’. According to a recent article in The Globe and Mail, an Ipsos poll found that noise reduction was the third most important factor in choosing a home appliance. During the Ideal Home Show in Brighton, England, visitors have been lining up to experience the ‘Quiet House‘. Inside, there are silent fans, flicking lights instead of clock alarms, quiet shower pumps and soft-close toilet seats.
Poppy Elliot, the founder of Quiet Mark, a not-for-profit company that sponsored the Quiet House, believes that hush is the new luxury. She predicts that quiet will be the most coveted feature in homes of the future.
As someone who loves a good silence, I’m all for finding ways to reduce the constant cacophony that accompanies us everywhere–from doctor’s offices to street cafés. Trouble is, it’s usually the higher-end products that offer noise reduction. A sliver of peace should be a universal right for all living beings, not just a luxe hush for the privileged few.