Can you hear this, America? You're too noisy . . . NOISY! Conference concludes that living is louder. Europeans warn of economic losses.


SALT LAKE CITY -- From its subways to its spacecraft, America is being deafened by noise, and even as European nations take legal steps to mute their machinery, the din in the United States seems to be getting louder, experts gathered here say.

At a meeting of the American Acoustical Society, physicists, audiologists, engineers, architects and specialists from many other fields concerned with acoustic problems exchanged hundreds of papers on the taming or exploitation of sound.

But whether the research involved making quieter automobiles or blocking the flow of noise from one apartment to another through the plumbing, a major conclusion of the conference was that noise pollution is bad and getting worse in many cases.

In Europe, said Dr. Klaus Brinkman of the German federal institute of standards, some 380 million people in a score of countries, including those of the former Soviet bloc, can eventually expect protection under a uniform set of environmental standards now being negotiated, including those dealing with noise.

Unless the United States begins making quieter machinery to comply with the environmental standards being worked out in

Europe, he warned, American companies' sales in the European market could sharply decline.

Dr. Anton S. Koros, a noise expert with Lockheed Engineering and Science Co. in Houston, reported that noise aboard spacecraft robbed astronauts of sleep, made it harder for them to concentrate or relax, and caused temporary hearing loss

In a study conducted by Dr. Koros and his colleagues, noise sensors were placed aboard the space shuttle Columbia last June as it orbited Earth with the Spacelab module in its cargo bay.

Inside the Spacelab, he said, the constant noise level was about 70 decibels, a level of sound comparable to that of a busy freeway. After the shuttle landed, Dr. Koros said, crew members were found to have suffered a small but significant hearing loss.

Unpleasant though 70-decibel noise may be in space, the Navy has to tolerate much higher levels. Dr. David D. Bernhard of the Naval Sea Systems Command said noise abatement on warships was a compromise between the need for a minimal degree of comfort and the mechanical requirements of the ship.

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