Next time you’re installing a hand dryer into your public toilet, you might want to consider the fact that the ordinary ones don’t actually work very well. That’s why the new vogue is to plump for the super-fast hand dryers, which blast out air at greater (some would say “super-fast”) velocity in order to get your hands dry, rather than just warming them up a bit.
Because while these super-fast hand dryers work very well at getting your hands dry, a new study from the “Unit for Sound Practice Research” (really?!?) has shown that they also terrorise “the vulnerable”.
Sound researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London have revealed the noise from high-speed hand dryers has the same impact on the human ear as that of a road drill at close range.
The researchers also found the dryers caused discomfort for elderly dementia sufferers, affected the navigation of visually-impaired people and even forced hearing aid users to turn their devices off when entering public toilets.
On the plus side, “the vulnerable” did leave, terrorised, with dry hands, which was nice. Damp hands are never good news for anyone, let alone “the vulnerable”.
Now, while I’m being flippant about this, I do note that for those individuals concerned, it’s not great. But I am left wondering how they manage in other situations which involve loud noise. Like, for example, a road drill at close range? (Their words, not mine.)
Should we ban road drills merely because a small percentage of society experiences discomfort?
Airports must be awful, but how are we going to get around if loud planes are no longer welcome? And then what if there was the trifecta of road drilling in an airport while someone dried their hands? Hell.
And then, this:
Furthermore, mothers reported a reluctance to use dedicated breast-feeding or baby changing provisions located near hand dryers due to the loud noise affecting both themselves and their infants.
Well, no. But this isn’t the fault of the hand dryers, this is the fault of the people who designed said provisions. No-one sticks a dedicated breast-feeding area next to a road drill factory, now do they? Not that I’ve seen, anyway.
But don’t worry. Through a jargon-laden, buzzword-containing statement, the report’s author (who is described as a “Senior Lecturer in Composition”, I’ll have you know) has a plan:
To solve these issues, we propose that engineers, sound artists and users come together to look at the acoustic space in which these dryers are found and tune the products accordingly to enhance the listening experience and minimise the discomfort that is caused to a whole range of people.
For “acoustic space”, read “public bog”. For “tune the products”, read “make the hand dryers quieter”.
And WTF is a “sound artist”?
I’m really not quite sure what to make of the “enhance the listening experience” bit either. Generally, I haven’t found myself heading off to the local lav for any reason related to enjoying a “listening experience”. And I’m not sure that I’d really want any sounds I heard therein to be enhanced. Not at all.