Help! My home is driv­ing me beep­ing crazy

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - MAR­I­ANNE POWER

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.

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