Lost my ‘earin’ – The Unpunished Crime

· Environment

A hypothetical conversation:

“Lost my ‘earin’.”

“What?  Lost yer earrin’?”

“Nah!” Don’t use earrin’s! Don’t ‘ear as well as I used to.”

“Why don’tcha use a … ‘earin’ aid?”

“It’d just make the problem worse.  Someone shouts above the normal volume, it’d ‘urt my ear like it used ta in my younger days, ‘n the problem ‘d just get worse!”.

– – – – –

Depending upon how one loses the capacity to hear properly, we are talking about what could well be called an unpunished, and usually, unpunishable crime.

Let us assume, for a moment, that the hearing loss was self-inflicted, by using earphones at an excessive volume.  Was the person behaving responsibly?

I know of at least one country where damage caused to a soldier’s feet by wet, dirty socks was considered a punishable, self-inflicted injury. I am not referring to the U.S.A., where this is dealt with under Article 115 of the Unified Code of Military Justice,  cf. a Canadian reference.

The firing of a rifle can exert sound levels capable of causing damage, not to speak of big guns.  No hearing protection was provided at the time that the present writer fired military weapons.  Perhaps this was considered to be an acceptable, occupational hazard.

It brings to mind how the modern world goes to extreme levels in some cases, in the interests of safety, to outlaw what was previously considered normal.  Consider, for example, that in 2008, the European Union ruled that bagpipe players either tone down the volume, or wear earplugs.  (And that’s not the only problem handed to them!) I don’t know whether they got around to making a similar restriction for the violin or other musical instruments, some of which are also incredibly loud for anyone up close.

I would imagine that any ordinary individual, whose hearing was hurt while attempting to play such an instrument for the first time, would choose between the pain and the pleasure.

Bagpipers, often as part of military units, probably had hearing impairment from weapons already, so their instrument would not add much to their auditory difficulties.  In fact, as our last link above shows, bagpipes were once outlawed as weapons.

But we are not really interested in the justice or injustice to the hearing of members of the military.  Their authorities surely do not want to give orders to those who are incapable of hearing them!  Conclusion: the problem is limited.

We are interested in the hearing loss caused to the ordinary civilian population.

What recourse does one have when a neighbor plays a stereo at rock concert venue sound levels – or worse – vibrating the doors, the walls, the windows, from 20 or more meters (yards) away, if not closer, in an apartment building?

The advice that was found through a web search for anyone who had suffered such a situation was laughable or useless.

First, try to talk with the neighbor.  Never mind the fact that hearing loss may have been caused already.

Then, some steps later, one can finally contact the police, who will check the sound level – sure – on a day that no offending noise level exists. (Sarcasm, with a link which does not correspond to what is really wanted, but useful for information purposes.)

We have seen an advertisement for an attorney specializing in such cases.  I am afraid that such an attorney would have to be infinitely sharper than the defense attorney, who might determine, for example (we assume) that someone’s prior presence at a rock concert was to blame.

This would only seem to work if a number of neighbors could back up the story.  That might not always be possible.

Then, we have a curious situation, of how former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega was, let us say convinced, to surrender from his refuge in the Vatican diplomatic enclave in Panama.  Obviously, the tactics affected not only Noriega, but anyone else in the building and its vicinity.

Then, hypocritically, in the light of the preceding, there is the charge that Cubans were attacking U.S. embassy staff with a sonic weapon.  Permanent hearing damage was said to have been caused.

We might be cynical – depending on our politics, and say that a diplomat is like a soldier – there are occupational hazards.

But would in not make more sense to consider these actions a war crime, if they occur?

As for civilians, consider: Someone criminally causes disfigurement or impairment of visible body parts, and an appeal can be made to the courts for redress.

But when you get the auditory equivalent of non-bruise retaining rubber truncheon treatment, we just have to live with it.

Unfortunately, fans of loud music indirectly facilitate the perpetuation of this assault on our hearing.  So do city officials, who look more upon the taxes the noise polluters generate, rather than the noise itself.  An example of the latter is found in an old television show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, “The Jet Pilot“.  Patriotism trumps inconvenience.  Thankfully, some places treat the problem more aggressively.

We no longer have to worry about the boy who cried “wolf”, or the mischievous cry of “fire” in a theater. This would seem to be especially true for city dwellers, because, if the information given here is correct, more than 8 hours of heavy traffic noise would not be acceptable.

The flames would have consumed us before we could ever hear the call.

January 23, 2018.

© 2018, Paul Karl Moeller

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