Sanitary Soundscapes: The Noise Effects From Ultra-Rapid “Ecological” Hand Dryers On Vulnerable Subgroups In Publicly Accessible Toilets

Drever, John L.. 2015. 'Sanitary Soundscapes: The Noise Effects From Ultra-Rapid “Ecological” Hand Dryers On Vulnerable Subgroups In Publicly Accessible Toilets'. In: 2nd International Conference on Hyperacusis (ICH2). Birkbeck College, University of London. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

This presentation will consist of a review of the issues arising from a preliminary study of the noise effects of ultra-rapid “ecological” hand dryers (Dyson Airblade, Airfore, XLerator, et al.) in publicly accessible toilets. These devises are very popular due to impressive data on efficiency, effectiveness, hygiene and speed, the corollary is however an increase in noise levels in this socially sensitive environment. The study comprised of study of related standards and policy, acoustic testing including sound power (in an anechoic chamber) followed up by in situ sound pressure tests in a range of different sized WCs. The most extreme example showed for one dryer in situ the equivalent Leq of 19 dryers in a free field environment. The final stage of the project involved discussion from sufferers and carers. While arguably not as serious as hearing loss, the project learnt of a wide range of users who were experiencing pain, fear, discomfort, anxiety, sensory shutdown, social exclusion and the onset of phobia that was coming about due to the quality and level of sound generated by high-speed hand dryers within the highly reflective acoustic of the WC. As well as children and infants the project found particular complaints among the following groups – visually impaired; hearing aid users; Alzheimer’s disease; Ménière’s disease; cerebral palsy and, most significantly, hyperacusis sufferers, and hyperacute hearing in autism and Asperger syndrome. This study functions as a microcosm for soundscape and acoustic issues in the urban environment for those with sensitive hearing. To communicate these issues to designers, policy makers and the pubic at large, the project was followed up by the devising and presenting of a number of sound art works. In conclusion, the presentation proposes a new paradigm for understanding hearing that extends from a medical classification of the otologically normal to a socio-cultural conception of the auraltypical. Within the hegemony of the auraltypical, the author calls for a new agenda of auraldiversity and aural relativism within urban design and product design.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Hyperacusis, Hand Dryer Noise, Auraltypical, Auraldiversity

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Music > Unit for Sound Practice Research


10 July 2015["eprint_fieldopt_dates_date_type_shown" not defined]

Event Location:

Birkbeck College, University of London

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 Jul 2015 12:42

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 09:33


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