Noise Pollution & Its Risks
Hearing loss affects far more people than many may assume, almost 14% of all adults in The United States and over half of everyone 75 years old or older. A very small percentage of these people are born with a congenital disability, less than three in 1,000. And a very small number of these people are the victims of some misfortunate accident. Much more commonly, hearing loss comes on gradually, the result of frequent exposure to dangerous sound levels.
Many of our homes end up being loud just as we go about our everyday activities: babies cry, someone watches television in the next room, appliances. They add up. But beyond our doors the compounded volume is even more beyond our control. The World Health Organization defines “Noise Pollution” as excessive environmental noise that “seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities at school, at work, at home and during leisure time.” The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association estimates that 30 million Americans are regularly exposed to potentially damaging noise levels. Of course this issue is strikingly different depending on where you live, what you do for work, and how you prefer to enjoy your leisure time, but in most urban and suburban areas noise pollution is practically unavoidable any time of day.
Examples of Noise Pollution
The first example that many of us may think of is car alarms. These are particularly irritating to many people exactly because they are designed to be. But many more sources of noise in our environments are less conspicuous, but just as damaging.
Construction Sites: Everyone has been stuck near a construction site and become impatient as it rattles their nerves. Jack hammers, pay loaders, cranes, cement mixers give off content noise.
Traffic and Transportation: Car horns, sirens, the screeching breaks of trains, revving motorcycles, and the constant dull roar of the roadways are constants in any densely populated area. You can count among this category people that live near airports who endure the traffic overhead all day and night.
Crowds, Parties, and Events: Concerts, clubs, bars, and parties are far less fun for the neighbors. Add to this the rattling volume of some car stereos and the sound of others being inconsiderate really adds up wherever you go.
Home and Landscaping: Barking dogs and loud television inside, lawnmowers and leaf blowers outside, each of our homes also contributes to the sum noise level from the perspective of our neighbors.
Industry: The many machines at the foundation of all our modern conveniences, such as furnaces and generators, make a tremendous racket to those in proximity to them.
Noise Pollution and Your Health
We are all so accustomed to our environments that many of these examples may admittedly seem at first to be no big deal. But when you consider that some combination of them layered one atop the other and nearly constant din has become our familiar environment, the risks are apparent. It creates a foundation of stress and tension and this in itself is already unhealthy.
A public health report looking at noise pollution in the U.S. states that “chronic environmental noise causes a wide variety of adverse health effects, including sleep disturbance, annoyance, noise-induced hearing loss, cardiovascular disease, endocrine effects, and increased incidence of diabetes”
Noise Free America, a leading advocate fighting against noise pollution, goes even further. It claims that our stress hormones triggered by noise pollution take a toll on our metabolisms and immune systems, linking noise pollution to tinnitus, heart disease, diabetes, pain, fatigue, poor performance at work and school, irritability, aggression,
How To Deal with Noise Pollution
Until public policy catches up with the seriousness of addressing noise pollution it is up to each of us to do what we can to protect ourselves. You might be inspired to reach out to your neighbors to suggest you work together to create a more comfortable environment for all. And there are simple steps you can take on your own.
Be aware of the noise level in your surroundings. If you have to raise your voice to communicate with someone standing next to you, you are probably in a dangerous noise range. Consider how your own personal habits contribute to the overall situation. You small decisions add up. Carpet your apartment to muffle the sound. Be considerate of your neighbors when using your appliance or relaxing with the TV or stereo. If you can plant trees, they absorb sound. Get in the habit of wearing noise reducing ear plugs. Common earplugs can be bought at most local pharmacies and reduce decibel levels by 15-30 db, a significant difference.
And finally, keep up with your hearing health, Respect it for the investment in your overall health that it truly is. Make an appointment with one of our specialists today.