A fair percentage of people stuck next to giant fans end up suffering severe health impacts and annoyance – especially sleep deprivation and all the negatives that come with that over the long haul. We’ve caught some of these totally unnecessary impacts here in our Experience Page, and in our posts.
It’s a problem documented the world over – for a raft of victims’ experiences see this YouTube Channel dedicated to capturing further victim impact statements from sufferers in Ontario.
From the work by Neil Kelley & Co in the 1980s, it was shown that it was the blade passing the tower that caused pressure pulses that generated the impulsive very-low frequency noise that drives neighbours nuts. This severely annoyed some people, but not others. The combined factors of geography, weather conditions, turbine operating speeds made some locations acoustically toxic – and there were some people who suffered more than others (see our post here). After that research got picked up last year, Kelley made it clear that the same physics that applied to early model turbines studied applied in equal measure to so-called “modern” turbines, as did the impact on neighbours (see our post here).
Top flight American neuro-physiologists, Professors Alex Salt and Jeffrey Lichtenham have just published a cracking little paper in the Acoustics Today journal called How does wind turbine noise affect people? In the paper, they talk about Amplitude modulation and how the impulsive, low-frequency noise generated means that using A weighted filters on data recorded from operating wind turbine noise (the basis for all wind farm noise guidelines and limits) is utterly irrelevant and should be dropped outright. They describe how the fluid accumulation condition, endolymphatic hydrops, can be induced by low frequency tones in the ear. They describe how excitation of outer hair cell afferent nerve pathways can occur. They show how wind turbine noise can exacerbate noise-induced hearing loss. They also describe how infrasound (which you can’t hear, but still feel) operates to stimulate the vestibular sense organs.
For a complete copy of the paper click here: Salt & Lichtenhan 2014.
One paragraph in their paper caught our attention:
6. Potential Protective Therapy Against Infrasound
A commonly-used clinical treatment could potentially solve the problem of clinical sensitivity to infrasound. Tympanostomy tubes are small rubber “grommets” placed in a myringotomy (small incision) in the tympanic membrane (eardrum) to keep the perforation open. They are routinely used in children to treat middle ear disease and have been used successfully to treat cases of Ménière’s disease. Placement of tympanostomy tubes is a straightforward office procedure. Although tympanostomy tubes have negligible influence on hearing in speech frequencies, they drastically attenuate sensitivity to low frequency sounds (Voss et al., 2001) by allowing pressure to equilibrate between the ear canal and the middle ear. The effective level of infrasound reaching the inner ear could be reduced by 40 dB or more by this treatment. Tympanostomy tubes are not permanent but typically extrude themselves after a period of months, or can be removed by the physician. No one has ever evaluated whether tympanostomy tubes alleviate the symptoms of those living near wind turbines. From the patient’s perspective, this may be preferable to moving out of their homes or using medical treatments for vertigo, nausea, and/or sleep disturbance. The results of such treatment, whether positive, negative, would likely have considerable scientific influence on the wind turbine noise debate.
That might sound radical, but for those hit with the worst of it – vertigo like symptoms or nausea, say – could offer a way of at least remaining in their homes without felling giddy or needing a bucket within handy reach (see our post here).
And there just might be something in it.
The impact of turbine generated infrasound was explained to us by a young mother living next to AGL’s Hallett 2 wind farm – about 2.8km from the nearest fan. To her the sensation was like a rock concert – not the noise part, but the pulsing pressure the music from the speaker stacks made as the sound pressure hits your chest. There were several young children in the community – some of who were affected – but among those that weren’t were children who – for other reasons – had grommets in their ears. Those with grommets did not complain about the pressure-pulse sensations that troubled those without.
Of course, it’s hardly fair that hard-working rural people are reduced to a life of misery in their very own homes and to be left with an option of using a significant medical intervention to, perhaps, gain some kind of relief. However, even if Gromit did come to the rescue, the long-term impacts of long-term exposure to low-frequency noise and infrasound – with sleep deprivation thrown into the “bargain” still remain – see our post on the work of Dr Mariana Alves-Pereira concluding that long term exposure to low frequency noise causes thickening of tissues in all parts of the body as a natural response to continual vibration (see our post here). The longer the exposure, the worse it gets. The simplest solution is, of course, to simply can the fans.