January 29, 2011 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver
Looking for a new hair blower? Any Target, RiteAid, Walmart or beauty supply store will have dozens, promising to make the user look like a Vogue or GQ model. The boxes state wattage, describe ceramic or ionic heating elements, and indicate if it contains Tourmaline to reduce the frizzies.
Something you will probably never find listed is far more important: How loud is it – how much noise – expressed in decibels – does it generate? We can credit what happened during the Reagan presidency as to why this important information is not listed. More on this in a moment.
No requirement to state noise level
“Manufacturers aren’t legally required to reveal how much noise they expose consumers to,” said Chicago audiologist and acoustic engineer Dr. Tom Thunder. “If they had to reveal these figures in an understandable manner, we could choose safer products in general, and not just hair blowers. Many of the items we use at home and on the job could and should be made much quieter, such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers, vacuum cleaners and kitchen blenders. The list of noisy products is enormous.
“As a nation, we aren’t getting the information we need to preserve our hearing, both in terms of public education and requiring quieter products in general.”
A noisier nation after Reagan
“While Reaganomics created tremendous economic prosperity, something else occurred during years which many audiologists point to as a cause of avoidable, serious hearing loss due to noise pollution, in the environment and workplace,” Thunder believes.
“Prior to Reagan, the federal government created the Office of Noise Abatement and Control. It was actively working to protect our hearing – as do similar agencies in many other countries – but then the funding was pulled.
“Europe, much of Asia and Japan is much more advanced than we are in labeling a product’s noise emissions and educating the public as to the need for quieter products. If that agency were still around today, it is safe to say that many of our nosiest places of employment would be a lot quieter, and the people who work there would not have lost nearly the degree of hearing which they have.”
Quiet hair blowers do exist
Using a professional grade sound meter, we tested a number of hair dryers. Even though some of the boxes described “quiet” motors, they measured well over 85 decibels, the same loudness as a vacuum cleaner. “That is a dangerously high figure,” Thunder commented.
But quiet hair blowers do exist. The problem is that most of them are only available in Asia and run on 220 instead of 110 volts. Panasonic produces “quiet mode hair dryers” and their Hong Kong website gives actual decibel figures. One comes in at 50 and the other at 52 decibels, and each are incredibly quiet from our own experience while in Hong Kong recently.
So, is there anything at all available in the U.S. which really is quiet?
Yes. It’s the Centrix Q-Zone Dryer, and it is manufactured by The Cricket Company of Novato, Calif. You and the Law was loaned one of these dryers and we validated its claimed 70 decibels. That is just slightly louder than normal speech. It is as powerful as anything we tested and a delight to use, well balanced and so quiet, without that hi-pitched shrieking sound so many hair dryers produce.
Sold online or through beauty supply stores, this is really quite a product for anyone who simply hates the noise of hair dryers in general. As the company’s VP of sales, Jeff Schwartz told me, “You can have a conversation with the dryer on high, with no problem at all. More importantly, this blower is far safer for hair care professionals and their customers,” he stated.
Odd reaction from other manufacturers
When readers ask us to look into a class of products, we always try to find more than one manufacturer, and we tried to this time as well. We contacted Conair and Andis, two of the largest sellers of hair care appliances, and asked for their help.
Their websites describe “quiet” hair dryers, but neither company would put us in contact with an engineer or other spokesperson, nor send us a unit to test, stating that they do not reveal specifications on noise levels produced. Of course, they don’t legally have to.
But the folks at Centrix have done so, so they get my vote.
Interestingly, the media contact for Conair did tell me, “We do have a very quiet hair dryer, but it’s for dogs.”
“Dogs?” I replied. “Don’t tell me you mean ugly women?”
“No, dogs, you know, bow-wow, doggies. We sell that in our canine line of products.”
Glad I asked.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.