I admire the city of Chelsea. It is a place that collectively and defiantly stands strong against those entities most likely to oppress–the interstate, the industries, the socioeconomic inequalities. A towering power plant dominates the horizon; large trucks saturate the roadways; excessive noise levels permeate throughout the atmosphere. However, in the background, a diverse community not only survives it but also thrives, despite it. Only the sound of resilience is louder–languages from every part of the globe standing up and standing out, letting you know that they are here, surviving.
Today’s community sound portrait is of Dr. Rohit Chandra, a psychiatrist who works at Mass General Hospital’s Chelsea location. He understands, quite deeply, the mindset of survival here and has dedicated his life to supporting the mental health of Chelsea’s most vulnerable citizens—its children. His office is covered with colorful drawings and paintings– tokens of appreciation from his patients. We talk to Dr. Chandra about his impressions of noise and he shares with us (among other things) his thought provoking insights on noise and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Name: Rohit Chandra, MD
Occupation: Physician (psychiatrist)
Tell us a little bit about noise in your work and home environment:
When there is an event or meeting in the conference room next door and a parade of people going by to enter it and conversing all the while (with the requisite swiping of an ID, beep as the door allows entry, and then opening and hard close of a magnetic door), I then close my door to be able to concentrate. Or, if I leave my door open (hoping to catch someone attending the event, perhaps), I squeeze out an extra bit of focus to block out the noise. This happens once a day on average. Outside of that, the hallway and my office are fairly serene. There are no windows to speak of, the air conditioning is quiet and if my pager is not beeping or buzzing every 30-60 minutes, I encounter no ‘noxious stimuli’ in my environment. As such, and because I have not been traumatized, I am not sensitized to the slamming of a door, or some patient raising his voice in an adjacent office, as opposed to patients with active post-traumatic stress disorder, whose bodies are already tense and prepped to fight or flee. Loud noises often trigger them such that they develop severe anxiety, often fearing that the traumatic event was happening again to them (or to loved ones) in the present.
How loud would you rate Chelsea?
Chelsea as a city, at least in the area of MGH Chelsea, is perhaps a 3.
Actual Noise Levels: Shuttle ride over: 85.0 dBA; Outside of Clinic: 96.2 dBA; Inside of Clinic: 54.0 dBA; Inside Dr. Chandra’s office: 43.0 dBA
Sound is an ubiquitous urban environmental exposure. However, noise--defined as unwanted sound--is best described by those who live with it every single day of their lives. The goal our Community Sound Portrait Series is to put a human face to the city soundscape and gather a better understanding of how noise impacts residents in the Greater Boston Area, both positively and negatively. The Community Sound Portrait Series is an online interactive exhibition of interviews, audio sound clips, noise measurements, and photographs of residents in the Greater Boston Area. These stories include residents in their neighborhoods as well as in their places of employment. We invite you to read and listen to their stories!
World Health Organization’s Community Noise Guidelines: