Have your heard about EVs?  They have ADDED external sounds so pedestrians and other drivers can HEAR them back up and take off.  Yup!  They have external speakers.  Vroom!  That is exactly ONE instance of valuable added sound for a personal product.

Then I asked a question…where else have manufacturers ADDED (or, at least have not reduced) sound?  It turns out that LOTS of products have ADDED noise, vibration, and other irritating things just because most consumers prefer it or are unaware they have a choice.

Vacuum Cleaners.  The technology has existed for more than 30 years to reduce the motor and suction noise by up to 50% …but they still make them loud.  If consumers demanded quieter vacuums they would sell them.

Vacuum Cleaners #2.  We like to hear things being sucked into the machines.  We love the little pings of micropebbles hitting the inside of the product.  So…they made that a feature.  We don’t need to hear that, they have prototypes that deaden that sound, but few people would buy them.

Cars with gasoline engines.  We love to hear the engine noises and sounds of acceleration.  As automobiles have become lighter and more efficient they naturally are producing less noise.  Yet manufacturers amplify those “beefy” sounds with product materials (and sometimes internal speaker systems)

Certain sounds are trademarks of the product.  Harley motorcycles don’t have to have “potato-potato-potato” engine rumbles!  It is engineered that way as a trademark sound.  Some people buy THAT product just to audibly show off.

If you can imagine any sound a product makes…that sound is almost never required for the product to perform its job more efficiently.  An example?  Snapple containers.  The lid of a fresh container “pops” when you open it.  It does not have to.  Other products are known fresh when opened with far less fanfare.

Kitchen blenders are often noisy when made from cheap materials.  Plastic parts make a blender noisy.  Cheap metal blades that aren’t really all that sharp … noisy.  Improper motor mounts with little sound deadening material … noisy.  The solution is to buy high-end products that promise less noise and stop buying those cutely designed cheaper models.

Leaf blower manufacturers add “whine” enhancements to make their products sound more powerful.  The sound does not move a single leaf.

Walk behind lawn mowers are loud primarily because their “mufflers” are actually made to prevent grass fires, not to muffle sound.  They are cheap and easy to make and the manufacturers do not concern themselves overly with reducing the noise.  While the efficiency of the machine would be compromised if we restricted air flow, there is no reason these devices could not deaden the noise by a few more dB.  Cost to do that would be less than $1 according to one expert.  Strangely, European models already HAVE sound deadening mufflers as a standard feature.

Our microwave oven chirps and tones for every imaginable reason.  It plays a tune as soon as it finishes and repeats that tune to remind us a minute later.  The owner manual says to not leave the room when cooking with their product, so…why the loud tune immediately when finished?  If you are in the room…you KNOW when it stops (unless you are using a cheap blender).  [On “why should you not leave the room”:  According to the National Fire Protection Association, there is an average of 6,600 fires caused by microwave ovens, with 120 civilian injuries annually.  Most of these are caused by inattention during use.  You cannot monitor the oven when you are not near it.]

The washer and dryer also make chirps, tones, and tunes … depending on which selection chosen.  PLEASE!  Stop already!  I’m standing right in front of the offensive noisemaker LOOKING at the selections I am making.  Do they think every owner is blind?  There is no way to turn off the noises.

Did I mention that no matter what settings I change on my iPhone it still finds a way to beep or chirp when I get an update or when it wants me to do something for it?  (But don’t get me started!  So much for “user friendly!”)

So!  Are manufacturers LYING to us?  I would not go that far.  They are giving us what we demand, actually.

If we only knew we could reduce the noise just by asking…like, have a “smart switch” so I can turn off the “brrrrr,” or “swish,” or “growl” when it is bothering me.  We have an app for everything else, so why not THAT?

People associate noise with effectiveness, just as pest control customers used to associate odor with effectiveness.  Years ago pesticides had very strong odors.  Then they came out with micro-encapsulated products that were practically odorless.  The new products worked better, lasted longer, and used less active pesticide per treatment.  However, it was several years before customers trusted them…there was no odor.  Funny thing was that the old products’ odors never killed a single insect. Same with unnecessary noises.  They usually serve little practical purpose.

When my kids were young I would take apart their battery toys and place a piece of foam padding over the speaker.  Re-assembled they were still plenty loud but a Db dropped here and another there…adds up, both to frayed nerves and sensitive ears.

So, do we WANT all of these product sound enhancements?  I vote “NO.”  If we (the consumers) demand less noise I’m guessing we will get what we ask for.


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