Help! My home is driving me beeping crazy
WE HAVE a new oven and, at the risk of being dramatic, I think it is trying to torture me. It just doesn’t stop beeping.
It beeps when you switch it on. It beeps when you set the temperature. It beeps when it’s too hot. It beeps when even the tiniest drop of water gets on it. And then some days I think it’s beeping just to torment me.
The dishwasher, fridge and freezer are in on it, too.
The other night I was settling in down in front of the telly when I heard it: beep. Beep. Beep.
Experience has taught me that it will go on and on until I tend to it. And so I stomped to the kitchen.
I checked the dishwasher, but just got a steam facial. I looked at the washing machine and tumble drier, but they were empty. I looked at my highmaintenance oven, but that was also off.
Then I worried that the smoke alarm was warning me the battery was dead, so I replaced it – but the beeping continued.
Eventually, I realised that it was the fridge door, which was not properly closed.
I feel I am being bullied in my own home. Bullied by beeps.
Once upon a time they were confined to car alarms, reversing rubbish collectors, and the barcode scanner at supermarkets. Then came cellphones with a beep for everything. Message received – beep. Message sent – beep. Fully charged – beep. Dying battery – beep.
And then the other infuriating alerts took up residence in homes.
“It seems impossible to get a machine that does not beep,” says Lisa Lavia, managing director of the Noise Abatement Society. “With the rise of technology has come a proliferation in this type of noise.
“We are getting a lot of calls from people at their wits’ end – beeps are one of the most stressful noises humans can be exposed to.”
She explains: “The human brain is designed to respond to sound. Every time it hears a sound, it is deciding whether there is a danger, or whether this sound is something you need to pay attention to, and how to react.
“So if, for example, you are walking in a quiet park and somebody stands on leaves behind you, you will usually turn towards that sound. Quite quickly you are able to assess what it is, to see whether it’s a threat or not.
“However, beeps don’t tend to work like that because they are not natural sounds. They confuse our brain and cause stress reactions.”
Lisa says that single tones, such as beeps, are called tonal sounds and go through our brains like a laser beam. They are difficult to ignore even when not very loud.
“Not only might the brain not easily understand what the sound is, it also finds it hard to tell where the sound is coming from,” she adds. “This causes the release of stress hormones.”
Indeed, research has shown that beeping hospital machines slow down patient recovery.
American research has also found – alarmingly – that staff can become so desensitised to alarms they don’t react in emergencies. Schools have found that pupils also find it hard to concentrate when there is a lot of background noise.
I find these beeps ruin my concentration. And far from being desensitised, I am getting more irritated as time goes on.
But it’s not just the sound that annoys – it’s the idea that as adults we all need to be treated like children, to be told what to do by machines.
And if we keep going down this noisy road, what will be next? Beeps when light bulbs need to be changed? Loo rolls that beep when you are getting near the end of the paper? Beeping beds to tell us it’s time to go to sleep?
One woman who is on a mission to make sure that does not happen is Poppy Szkiler, the founder of Quiet Mark, an organisation working with manufacturers to encourage them to bring down their noise levels.
“There is a backlash,” she says. “John Lewis did some research that found that more than 50 percent of people wanted their household appliances to be less noisy, which is why they have just started marking quieter machines with a special ‘Quiet Mark’ label.”
Poppy says that manufacturers should think of alternatives. “They could have the sound of birds, for example, or a harp sound,” she says. “They might be quite nice.” – Daily Mail
New appliances may be gorgeous and useful but they are also noisy and demanding, says the writer.