Why Super Fast Hand Dryers Exclude People From Public Spaces


Super Fast Hand Dryers

With my hands still wet, I have many times had to literally flee out of public bathrooms in order to escape the ear-achingly loud super fast hand dryers.

A new study from researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK, suggests that – while super fast hand dryers may dry your hands in seconds – they in fact have the same impact on the human ear as a road drill at close range. A noise level that can be highly damaging to people’s ears.

The researchers performed an acoustic test in an environment that resembled that of a public bathroom and found that the dryers reached decibel levels 11 times higher than those reached in product testing labs.

According to Dr John Levack Drever, Head of Sound Practice research at Goldsmiths, the noise created by the dryers was being “vastly amplified in the highly reverberant and reflective small toilet”.

There are numerous groups of people who suffer from the excessive noise, and they are therefore practically being excluded from many public spaces. The dryers can be very damaging to the ears of newborns. They can cause great stress and discomfort to sufferers of tinnitus and hyperacusis, and to elderly dementia sufferers. They can affect the navigation of visually-impaired people. They may force hearing-aid users to turn their devices off when entering public bathrooms. Many others get stressed and anxious by the loud noise.

The research team at Goldsmiths concluded that manufacturers need to test their products in more realistic environments, rather than in “‘ultra-absorbent acoustic laboratories”.

“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 minimize the discomfort”, Dr Levack said.

With a tad more empathy shown by the people buying and installing these super fast hand dryers, it should become clear that there are sufficient reasons for them to be banned until quieter versions are available.

Let’s stick to paper towels or less noisy dryers so that going to a public bathroom won’t be a stressful and even potentially physically harmful experience.

Do you agree? Have you personally been negatively affected by encountering excessively loud hand dryers in public spaces? Please, comment below.

Image: bradleygee

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  • David Bsmt

    I agree I cannot go to a lot of restrooms beacause of those ####$$$ hand dryers

    • Hi David! Yeah, it really sucks. Lately, I have noticed that an increasing number of airports have started using the ultra-noisy handdryers. This solution is really discriminatory against all the millions of passengers worldwide who suffer from sensitive ears. Besides that, babies and young children whose hearing organs are still much more sensitive than that of adults should also not spend any time near these dryers.

      • David Bsmt

        Yep. Most governments and companies don’t care about people suffering from ear condition. There are sounds that are NECESSARY (like the sound of a police car), but lots of unnecessary noise, like motorcyles, honks,.. Loud Motorcycles should be ban. I live in paris and I tell the police sometimes, and they say they can do nothing. 🙁 So i can’t walk in the streets with my ears unprotected

        • I agree with you – motorcycles without mufflers should be banned. I live in Stockholm and it gets very loud in the summer due to the many loud motorcycles. Driving without a muffler only results in a very small fine, and the Swedish police does nothing to enforce any of the regulations that do exist.

          It seems that what we need is people in the government who themselves or any of their family members have an ear condition in order for society to become more inclusive and caring.

          Do you have tinnitus and/or hyperacusis? And what type of ear protection do you usually use when walking the streets of Paris?

          • David Bsmt

            Yes i’ve been dealing with hyperacusis for 5 or 6 years, it came slowly. I discovered a few month ago it was because of my jaw pain and my clinching..

            I use standard “boules quies” but i think i should buy professionnaly made ear protection, adapted to the shape of my ear ? What do you think ?

            I’ve moved in the nearsuburb at “la defense” where there are no cars so… that’s great i can walk without being stressed out.

            Yep people don’t care about the noise unless they have an ear condition or know someone close to them who has one. I wasn’t annoyed at all by motorcycles before my H. Now everytime I see someone riding one, I say in french “small dick” or i insult them, i cannot resist it, i HATE them so much they’re killing my ears just for their pleasure and maybe to overcome a lack of virility …

          • Are you getting medical help for you jaw pain and clinching? I’ve read that there are some jaw conditions that can actually be partly or even fully treated.

            Yes, I’d recommend you getting custom molded ear plugs. They come with different filters, e.g. 15 or 25 decibels. The advantage is that in situations when you don’t need maximum protection you can use the filters and then better be able to hear people’s conversation. Otherwise, you might feel too isolated if you use the foam ear plugs when talking to friends in a medium-loud place.

            You have to find out what’s best for you, but the general recommendation is not to over-protect yourself. So use different ear protection depending on the situation. However, walking down the street is tricky since you anytime may encounter a very loud noise like a motorcycle suddenly driving by.

          • David Bsmt

            Yes i’m seeing a stomatologist and he’s going to make a “gouttière”(i don’t know how to say it, it’s to avoid clinching during the night). He told me to try this for 3 month and then we’ll see. what’s your opinon about that ?

            Yes that would be a good compromise. Custom molded ear plugs : can i buy them on the internet or does that mean they are made by a specialist for the shape of my ear?

            Yep, a motorcycle can come anytime. I think that most of people with H have phonophobia like me, but i try to reduce it and not to think about it. But i’m always prepared for a loud noise…
            Thank you so much for your answers Magnus 🙂 and sorry for my bad english !

          • I think it’s called a mouthguard, and yes, that sounds like a great idea. It will probably be able to lessen the pressure when you clench your teeth. Also try mindfulness, yoga, massage or anything similar that can help you to become as calm and de-stressed as possible.

            About the custom molded ear plugs, yes, you need to see a specialist that can insert clay into your ear which will dry up and become the mold from which your earplugs can be produced. It is quite pricey but maybe you can get a discount via your ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist?

            You’re welcome! And I think your English is very good! 🙂

          • David Bsmt

            Yep this is a mouthguard, thanks.
            I’m going to watch videos for massage, that’s a great idea.

            I’ve seen a lot of specialists of the ear and the 6th one only told me it was maybe about my jaw, which is not straight and very tense. So he sent me to a stomatologist.

            I have a big big question, i can’t find the answer :
            -assuming my H comes from the pressure on my jaw
            -assuming i have had H for 5 years
            -do you think that less pressure in my jaw could reduce or Supress my H ? or my ear nerves are definitely broken, so that i can only be able to prevent the increasing of my H ?
            (i don’t suffer from recruitment, i hear very well according to specialists).

            Ok, i’m going to try to find if i can get a moldel ear plug. I think it’s about 100 or 150 euros, that’s not too pricey and really worth it. Ear plugs tend to increase my Tinnitus by the way, which is normally very low; maybe it would not be the same with those ear plugs.

            Thanks ! My english is not as good as yours ! 🙂 In France there’s only a few people who speak english… our last 3 presidents (Hollande,Sarkozy,Chirac) didn’t speak a word of english…

          • I’m no specialist, but I’m thinking that reduction of the jaw pressure could potentially reduce your H (provided that you didn’t actually get your tinnitus and H from loud noise like myself). Meaning that if you actually got the condition mainly because of something in your jaw then the chances are better that something might help. I got tinnitus from having attended multiple loud concerts and I don’t think anything will be able to help me based on existing treatments. Although there are things that I could explore more to be able to cope better, such as massage and mindfulness.

            Anyway, as for you, it’s better not to have too high expectations and then have yourself pleasantly surprised if/when things improve. 🙂

            It’s normal to perceive tinnitus to get louder when blocking out external noise. So whether you hold your fingers or use any type of earplug blocking the ear canal, your tinnitus will sound louder. It’ll be the same thing with the custom molded ones. The advantage with them is rather that you don’t block out as much noise in situations that are not very loud, which helps you be able to hear the human voice better. The sound will be more natural. BUT of course, the solid foam plugs are much better at blocking out noise so when you need maximum ear protection you should not wear the custom molded ones.

            There is however one option not to use any filters so then you just get custom molded plugs that are completely solid, without a hole drilled through it. That way you get better noise protection but you lose out on the natural sound of the filters. I have one pair like that as well. They work well but do not block as much noise as the foam ear plugs.

            Yeah, some French are stubborn about not learning English. But when I have walked the streets of Paris, I have actually been surprised that most people I talked to were good at English. So I guess it’s a bit of a stereotype and that the younger French generations are more comfortable with English. 🙂

          • David Bsmt

            🙂 it might be a stereotype, but sometimes stereotypes are true 😉

            I’m very sad because in 5 years no specialist told me that it could be related to my jaw. So i kept on clinching without noticing that it was bad for me.

            Is your tinnitus always at the same level, or it depends on your mood, how well you slept, what you ate,.. ? Sorry to hear that. And you have no “abnormal” sound sensitivy associated with this condition ?

            That’s true, i don’t wanna have high expectations… I just want to do whatever I can to improve my condition, even if i have 1% chances of success to lessen the pain.

            Ok I understand. Since it blocks less noise, that means less tinnitus. I’ll go out with the solid foam plugs and the molded one then ,great advice.

            Ok cool where have you been in Paris ? I think it may depend on the neighbourhood, people and culture are really different from one “arrondisssement” to another !

            Yep and with the internet, you HAVE to understand english. This is more true when like me you don’t go out a lot. I’ve discovered so much things on english written websites or youtube videos, on ebooks…

            Anyway, thanks a lot, i’ll keep you updated and tell you if my condition is getting better. Have a very nice day and thanks for your blog which is great 😉

          • David Bsmt

            Last day i was at a macdonald’s, and a little girl was shouting suddenly. I put my fingers in my ears, and then the father wanted to hit me saying “why do you do that ? is she bothering you? f*** you etc…” I wish I could go years back when i was free and joyfull. I’d rather be in a weelchair I think.

          • That was a very aggressive father…sorry to hear about that… I used to try to hide my then-perceived ‘weakness’ but nowadays I don’t excuse myself. So if I was in that situation at McD, I’d just explain to the guy that I have very sensitive ears and that I don’t blame his daughter. I think that the more people that find out about this type of condition, the better it is. Knowledge is one important step towards empathy. 🙂

            And if I’m in a situation where I feel a need to use large industrial-style earmuffs, I just put them on. Like, if I walk by a construction site and I have earmuffs in my bag then I’ll just put them on. I couldn’t care less what other people think about anything. It gives a sense of freedom to act like myself and put my needs first. When I was younger, I would sometimes silently suffer just because I didn’t want a certain girl to see that I was inserting earplugs.

            I understand your frustration about how things are. But try to adapt to whatever limitations you perceive and then focus on all the great things life has to offer. Including the really small ones like sitting in bed watching movies and eating ice-cream… 😉