Putting a stop to the noise epidemic

By Mai Tran   March 2, 2024 | 03:00 pm PT
Putting a stop to the noise epidemic
A man sings karaoke via a portable set at a street-side restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City's Go Vap District in 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Binh
Everyone complains about the karaoke noise epidemic, but I have never seen a regulatory body bring a noise measuring device to check the levels in my neighborhood.

Having read numerous articles about the karaoke nuisance recently, I believe it is time we take a serious look at this situation.

Firstly, it must be asserted that the law does not prohibit people from singing, no matter how well or poorly they sing. Everyone has the right to sing, anytime, anywhere, and no country in the world bans singing. The thing is, the cause of annoyance for many is the loud noise – the volume of noise – due to families installing karaoke systems without proper soundproofing.

Therefore, the most important thing here is that we need to regulate how much noise is acceptable during the day and at night. We need to decide how long it should last, and what device should be used to measure it. Then we can use this as the basis for addressing violations.

Comparing the noise level of karaoke singing and the noise produced by motorcycles on the road, which one is louder? If karaoke singing must be done in an enclosed room for noise prevention, then perhaps motorcycles with loud engines should also be banned in the city.

In other words: we need specific laws on noises, not just laws to deal with karaoke.

This means that such laws will govern many aspects of society, including but not limited to: karaoke, motorcycle noise, neighborhood loudspeakers, street vendor speakers, drumming and dragon dancing, sounds from advertisements in stores, street vendors, even the sounds of arguing and cursing. Once regulations are in place, any sound exceeding the limit must be penalized equally, not just karaoke.

It is also necessary to distinguish what constitutes "disturbing others."

The law cannot bring forth judgement based on feelings; there must be standards and quantifications, especially when we are surrounded by hundreds of types of sounds all day and night. Therefore, blaming everything on karaoke singing is incorrect and unfair.

I agree that our laws already have regulations on such issues. But I have never seen a regulatory body bring a noise measuring device to my neighborhood to conduct checks. Nor have I seen laws that specifically allow for a maximum noise level, so that citizens can comply with such standards.

My family has never sung karaoke, nor have we ever been overly troubled by neighbors singing every day. But this Tet, I was again bothered by the sound of drums and lion dancing in my neighborhood. But no authority ever visited to check or help out with the situation.

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