The days of leaping for the TV remote to lower the volume when your favorite show cuts to commercial will soon be a thing of the past. The CALM Act (Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) was recently passed by the Senate and requires that the FCC ban the decades-old practice of increasing the volume of commercials. Many spouses of those with hearing loss are leaping for joy. It’s not uncommon for a person with hearing loss to turn up the TV volume in order to try to hear more clearly. Unfortunately, the volume may then be too loud for the spouse who likely doesn’t have a hearing loss. So, when a commercial comes on at a very high level, it can be very annoying.
So why do advertisers make the commercials so loud?
It’s due to something called noise saturation. Even though you might begin watching a show with the TV volume set to your comfort level, the noise saturation levels vary from scene to scene and from show to show. You might notice this if you switch in-between stations. One show might be easy to hear while another requires an increase in volume. The sound engineers that are involved in the program’s production have control over the amount of volume that the show permits at different times throughout the program. This allows the production team to make a scene more dramatic or suspenseful, more scary or more amusing.
The volume setting you select for the program is simply the maximum level for the sound for your chosen program. You can have louder and quieter scenes or more or less background noise, all based on the volume level you choose with your remote. The sound engineers control whether particular sounds in each scene will be coming out of the TV at maximum levels or not. So, the sound can blast out at 100% of how loud you’ve set the TV or at only 50%, depending on the dramatic effect the engineers are trying to create.
When it comes to commercials, advertisers are smart. The commercial is produced to deliberately increase the sound saturation to 100%, in most cases, in order to grab your attention. The increase is especially noticeable if the show you’ve just been watching is right in the middle of a quiet or tranquil scene. The brain is an amazing thing; it remembers what is new and exciting. By creating a novel incident, marketers know they can get your attention and by doing so, you are likely to remember their product the next time you see it on the shelf.
With the CALM act, spouses can rest easy again…until their husband or wife starts using new technology. With new ways of watching TV programs and movies without actually having a TV, there is a new way for advertisers to continue to use sound saturation to get our attention. Mainly, the computer-based internet sites that allow you to watch your favorite show are not controlled by the FCC. And, in many cases, the viewer cannot skip past commercials, leaving us exposed once again to the psychological manipulations of the genius marketers. So, how do you combat the annoying and troublesome volume changes? The best way to manage it will continue to be…the Mute button.