Many people deal with loud or constant noise on a daily basis. However, what may seem like a simple annoyance in your everyday life may actually have serious effects on your health in both the long- and short-term. That’s why it’s important to understand exactly what noise pollution is and how it can affect your health. Read this article to learn more about this potential health threat and how you can reduce its harmful effects.
What Is Noise Pollution?
Noise pollution is generally defined as any type of excessively loud or disturbing noise that disrupts a person’s life. The noises can come from a wide variety of sources, including machines and animals. Living or working near an airport, where the loud sounds of airplanes landing and taking off is often heard, is one way that a person may be exposed to noise pollution on a regular basis. Noise pollution can be measured in decibels – noises above 45 decibels can prevent sleep, while ear pain is caused around 120 decibels.
Common Causes Of Noise Pollution
In modern society, transportation systems – including cars, trains and airplanes – are one of the most common sources of noise pollution since they can be particularly loud and unrelenting in certain areas. In general, people who live in urban centers are more likely to be exposed to noise pollution due to population density and the increased presence of the transportation systems described above. Living in an urban city may also mean that people are more exposed to the noises of construction, which is another major source of noise pollution.
While those in larger cities are more likely to experience noise pollution, those in rural settings may also experience this problem as well. A key example of rural noise pollution is farming, which may include a variety of machines that produce harsh or loud noises. Additionally, things like barking dogs or neighbors playing loud music can also be sources of noise pollution.
Effects Of Noise Pollution On Your Health
Unfortunately, being exposed to noise pollution can have some serious effects on your health. The effects can worsen if your exposure to the noise pollution is something that you deal with regularly or even daily. Below are some of the most common health effects associated with noise pollution:
- Headaches and migraines: The most common short-term effect of noise pollution is a headache or migraine. The constant annoyance of noises can often lead to painful headaches, which can make focusing difficult for some people. In the case ofmigraines, people may also experience sensitivity to light or nausea as well.
- Stress: A potential short- or long-term effect of noise pollution is stress. Some studies suggest that noise pollution coming from neighbors’ homes tends to be one of the biggest causes of noise pollution-related stress.
- Hearing loss: Over time, some people experience hearing loss as a result of noise pollution. The loss of hearing occurs when structures of the inner ear are damaged, which could occur once noises reach or exceed about 85 decibels.
- Loss of sleep: As mentioned above, noise pollution above 45 decibels wakes up most people, while light sleepers could be affected by noises at lower decibel levels. A loss of sleep can lead to a wide range of health conditions, including exhaustion, irritability, loss of focus or even a weakened immune system.
- Hypertension: In many cases, regular exposure to noise pollution has been shown to elevate blood pressure levels. This type of hypertension could be due to the adrenaline of being annoyed at the noises being heard or with stress associated with being constantly interrupted in whatever a person is doing, whether it is work or sleep.
- Stroke: Those who are exposed to road traffic regularly often display an increased risk of stroke. This was especially more apparent in individuals over the age of 65.
- Child development: Studies over the past several decades have shown as association with slowed mental and/or physical development in children. The cases reported in these studies typically involve children who live in homes near airports or other especially loud locations.
Ways To Avoid Noise Pollution
There are several steps you can take to try to limit your exposure to noise pollution, including:
- Using a white noise machine
- Inserting ear plugs when going to sleep
- Moving to a new city or neighborhood
- Lobbying for local noise ordinances
- Discussing noise disturbances with your neighbors
In addition to these steps, several governmental regulations have been put in place to try to reduce noise pollution. For example, there are environmental noise regulations in place to limit outdoor noise levels, and some neighborhoods may even have a specific “quiet zone” order in place. Additionally, some areas have tried to limit noise pollution by putting up noise barriers next to places like highways and airports, and many automakers are looking for ways to make quieter vehicles. While these steps do help, they may not fully limit the effects of noise pollution. See a doctor if you believe that noise pollution may be affecting your health.