Peace and Quiet

How to escape the noise in an ever-louder world

By Jennifer Stewart

Water rushes over dark rocks beneath green trees and blue sky
Photo by Michael Amador

Everything is bigger in Texas, sure. But these days, it seems like everything is louder, too. From construction on our continually widening freeways to omnipresent leaf blowers, Texans are exposed to a clamorous cacophony of noises that pushes our hearing health to the max. “You might be attending lots of outdoor or indoor concerts; you might be going to see friends at restaurants or bars,” says Dr. Tony Milesi, audiologist at RK Audiology in Austin. “Those types of places can really get a lot louder than we realize at the moment.” Noise pollution—exposure to noise measuring over 65 decibels (a vacuum cleaner measures about 70 decibels, for comparison)—is getting harder to escape. Luckily, Texas has plenty to offer when it comes to finding quiet spaces to protect our hearing and overall well-being.

An illustration of a person 'hushing' with their lips and finger

Creating Quiet

Texas’ infrastructure contributes a lot of discord to our already noisy lives. Urban and transportation planners are tasked with improving transportation, housing, and commercial infrastructure to decrease noise in communities, according to Ruben Landa, president of the Greater Dallas Planning Council. “The more dense things get, the louder it gets,” Landa says. One solution is adding more green spaces to break up the density of roads and developments. “It’s not just about having green space to make good environmental sense,” Landa says. “It’s also an opportunity for people to get away from the big city and enjoy serene and relaxing spaces.” You don’t have to travel to a national park or swanky resort to find quiet. Texas’ public parks and libraries offer accessible places to unplug.

30
decibels

Sound intensity of a whisper

85 decibels

Sound intensity that can cause hearing damage

140 decibels

Highest recorded sound intensity of cheers at a football game

Hear Me Out

Austin audiologist Dr. Tony Milesi shares tips for navigating noisy places.

What effect does a louder society have on our health?
“As a society, we may be getting louder, but I think it depends on where you live and what your life consists of activity wise. Noise can cause all sorts of things including tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. It can cause a lot of ear fatigue and make you physically tired as well.”

What can Texans do to protect their hearing if they live or work in loud spaces?
“Noise canceling headphones can be nice for situations like living in an apartment trying to drown someone else out; just make sure you’re not turning them up too loud. There are custom plugs audiologists can make that have a filter that brings down the overall sound. These plugs really help protect your hearing.”

Where do you go for peace and quiet?
“It’s great to go on walks or a hike. I like to fish, so going out on a nice quiet little lake or river or anywhere that is secluded can get you away from some of that day-to-day noise.”

A chart showing the loudness of various events, like taking a walk (40db), grocery shopping (80db), thunder in a Texas storm (180db), sitting by a church band (130db), or a football game with fireworks (160db)
A group of people play soccer on a bright green field
Photo by Will van Overbeek

Urban Respites

For those of us who reside in bustling big cities, it can be difficult to schedule time away. Places like Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin allow for a quiet getaway in the city, as does Dallas’ 1,000-acre White Rock Lake. The 12-acre Discovery Green park in Houston has city amenities, and Bates M. Allen Park in nearby Kendleton offers a less populated escape. Franklin Mountains State Park is the best place to find quiet in El Paso, and Malaquite Beach offers a calm respite in Corpus Christi.

Mind, Body, and Soul

“In overall well-being, quiet plays the role of the teacher and student,” says Alisha Burrell, a yoga coach and wellness entrepreneur based in Dallas. “We learn how to observe and be in the present.” Benefits of quiet for our mental health include:

Boosted energy levels

Reduced negative emotions

Improved breathing

Improved concentration

From the February 2023 issue

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