American teenagers shower four times a day and squeal with disgust if they touch anything that hasn’t been whooshed through a laser cleaner unit. But we are not very interested in noise hygiene. In the gym you have to put up with the the general music booming out of the gym speakers as well as any number of tinny personal music sources that gym-users need for their own personalised experience (for some gymsters headphones don’t do it). At the gym you can be involved in cacophony. The world isn’t much better. Recently I had a couple of wax-blocked ears and went to the doctor to have two huge lumps of wax sucked out of my ears. They emerged like two frightening bugs from up the auditory canal. The nurse put them in a test tube for me and I regaled and horrified a number of colleagues with the exhibit. When I came out of the doctors I suddenly experienced the noise-ridden universe like a new-born: the roar of the traffic; the sound of my own footsteps. The ear produces wax naturally to protect the inner zones, but why does it overproduce? Is it a subconscious desire to shut the world out? Or shut somebody up? Racket just gets louder and louder and we haven’t even started getting unhappy about it yet.