Ken Trainor’s criticism of noisy, environmentally polluting leaf blowers addresses a problem that transcends race, age, one’s political affiliation or sexual orientation. It’s an anatomical bit of equity: We all have eardrums, that thin flap of skin stretched tight that vibrates when a sound hits it. Whatever that sound is, it reaches our brain via the inner ear, which sends a signal to the brain. The brain then wants its owner to “attend” to that sound and give meaning to it. In the case of those gasoline-powered, unmuffled leaf blowers, the normal brain says “Stop that racket!”

At this time of year, a leaf blower’s quintessential purpose is fully engaged, owing to the ubiquitous presence of deciduous trees shedding their leaves. Countless leaves. Leaves everywhere! However they don’t all fall off all at once, and so individuals and landscape crews engage in a protracted determination to vacuum them, bag or burn them, or use them for compost.

Whatever the case, leaf blowers — the high-tech rake first created in the 1940s — tend to be those aforementioned ear-splitting noise-makers. My apartment building has a huge courtyard with numerous tall trees. Each week, the landscape crew shows up as early as slightly past 8 a.m. This week, I endured well over an hour of leaf-blowing auditory assault. By early evening, after another period of leaf shedding by the courtyard trees, it looked the same as before the morning noise-makers finished up, in spite of crew members seeming not to know when to stop already! At times, I have watched them seemingly attacking dirt or leaf molecules. It is an absurd sight. But worse than sight is the sound.

Clearly the technology exists for battery-powered, muffled blowers. Sure, it will incur a financial cost to upgrade. Rebate incentives? Or simply required by law, with the noise-makers ticketed and fined, as a public hearing health issue.

That, or if government can’t attack the cause of the problem, then eliminate the effect: how about free, high-tech ear plugs?

Joe Harrington, Oak Park

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