We live in a noisy world. And one of the side effects is the fact that many find complete silence unsettling and uncomfortable.

We live in a noisy world. And one of the side effects is the fact that many find complete silence unsettling and uncomfortable.

On Monday, the chimes of Big Ben will ring out at noon, as they have done almost every day since July 11, 1859.

And then you won’t hear them again for four years.

This ringing pause has caused a right kerfuffle.

After all, this is a sound that is not only familiar to those who work in the vicinity of the Houses of Parliament – it also became associated with Britain around the world during wartime BBC news broadcasts.

But why is the idea of a bit of peace and quiet in central London causing such distress?

 

Normal noise

 

Our sound experts have consulted with experts around the globe on the concept of noise, it’s impact on our health and how to reduce it to a comfortable hum.

But among our studies, we also conferred with experts who treat patients suffering from extreme fears – many battling a condition known as sedatephobia – or fear of silence.

Sufferers tend to experience symptoms to include panic attacks, heart palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath and nausea if they are in an environment or situation which is quiet.

This can include anything from a spell in a library or an exam room, during pauses in conversation, as the result of a power cut, when they try to spend time alone or when they try to sleep.

This type of phobia was unheard of 50 years ago. But, thanks to a technological revolution, we are surrounded by noise everywhere we go.

 

Fighting for balance

 

While the sound of constant drilling from a building site can make you ill, the chimes of a clock tower do not.

Unless of course, you are up in that clock tower and sat right beside it.

And therein lies the problem.

You see, Big Ben is being repaired as part of a £29 million pound conservation project that includes restoration of the Queen Elizabeth Tower, which houses the bell.

And officials say the silencing is needed to ensure the safety of workers.

Adam Watrobski, principal architect at the Houses of Parliament, rejected claims that the great bell that survived German bombing raids was the victim of overcautious health and safety regulations.

“It is quite simply that we can’t have the bells working with those people adjacent to it. It simply isn’t practical to do that,” he said.

 

Take care of your hearing

Echo Barrier provides ways to help manage noise pollution in a number of industries and as noise experts, we have seen firsthand evidence of the damage that exposure to excessive noise can have on the quality of life of those working on site or living nearby.

From tinnitus to insomnia, stress to heart disease, we hear stories on a regular basis from people who are at breaking point.

This week Parliament officials said they would review the length of time the work on Big Ben would take.

They understand the general desire to have the bell back in action as fast as possible.

But here at Echo Barrier we would also urge tourists and Londoners alike to consider the men and women who will be working on this glorious landmark in our capital to make sure it continues to chime for generations to come.

And their hearing should come first.