Over the years the sounds of Nature have been increasingly drowned out by noises from machines, aircraft and automobiles. The sound level at movie theaters has also been rising along with speaker quality and power. The standard theater decibel level is now between 70 and 90, and some action films roar at 120 – jackhammer volume known to cause hearing loss.

(My son had to cover his ears several times at a Star Wars movie and we have had to leave a theater on occasion because of the noise level).

Car and home audio systems are likewise louder, and the popularity of iPods and personal stereos is troubling. Some can play at 120 decibels for 20 hours without a recharge. More than 30 million Americans now suffer irreversible hearing loss, and experts say noise is to blame for 10 million of those cases. Some researchers also maintain that excessive noise contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease. (I actually had experienced an elevated stress level at times during what was meant to be a relaxing vacation in Puerta Vallarta because the soothing sound of the ocean was drowned out daily by the speakers blaring techno-rock by the pool. My friends and I sitting on the beach actually had a hard time hearing one another because of the noise behind us.)

For our sakes as well as our sensitive children’s, we need to escape from the noise level around us and spend some relaxed time listening to what the foremost recorder of natural sounds, Bernie Krause (www.wildsanctuary.com) calls “the musicality of nature”.

The Jivaro, a people of the Amazon rain forest, use the natural sounds around them the same way we would use a map. Every place they go, the vegetation is different, the terrain is different – so the animals have differnet inflections in their voices. The Jivaros know all the variations so well that they can tell where they are just by listening. (and I’ll bet their blood pressure is pretty stable too!)

I know how sensitive I am to sound and how disturbing it can be for me at times to be in stores, theaters and out in public places. Combine the sounds with the mixed energies of people and it sometimes becomes overwhelming for me. How it must be for those children who are more sensitive than I am, including my children, who would rather spend time at the beach than in a video arcade.

So whenever possible, take a stroll along a creek or stream, in a park or anywhere away from the noises of the city. To soothe an agitated child, take a walk or just sit in nature and allow them to feel and hear their surroundings. Many children these days can and actually should communicate with Nature as much as possible for a balanced and harmonious state of being.

If we can take a little time to just listen long enough, who knows what kind of enchanting world will reveal itself!

(Some of this was adapted from the article in Via magazine, Stop, Look, Listen by Bill Donahue)

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