Understanding how noise pollution affects our health
Even before you read through this, you are probably aware that noise pollution affects our health. But are you aware of the extent of the harm noise pollution can cause? In this article, we’ll look at examples and research that evidence health issues caused by noise pollution, and also include a few ideas on how to address some of the problems.
Community noise (also called environmental noise, residential noise, or domestic noise) is defined as noise emitted from all sources except noise at the industrial workplace.
According to the World Health Organisation, any continuous levels of noise in excess of 55 decibels (dB) is potentially damaging to our health. To put this into perspective, 55dB is roughly equivalent to the sort of background conversation you would hear in a restaurant. As an example of just how badly noise pollution affects our health, a study carried out and published in the European Heart Journal in 2015 concluded:
Long-term exposure to road traffic noise was associated with small increased risks of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality and morbidity in the general population, particularly for stroke in the elderly.
Traffic noise has always created problems for mankind. Even in ancient Rome, rules existed to curb the noise emitted from ironed wheels of wagons which battered the stone pavements and disrupted the sleep of residents. Clearly, traffic noise is still a huge issue with motorbikes, cars, vans, and lorries potentially creating noise disturbance for many people. Even in normally quiet rural areas, loud motorbikes, for example, can cause sleep disturbance.
And some people, of course, have the added disadvantage of rail and/or air traffic noise.
But traffic noise is not the only cause of community noise. Industry, construction works, public works such as refuse collection, sports facilities, and general neighbourhood noises can all create issues. Or maybe we have particularly noisy neighbours, whether that’s from heated rows, screaming kids, loud music or barking dogs.
What can you do to minimise the problem?
You can report a noise nuisance to your local council, but the often-erratic nature of noise problems can make it difficult to provide sufficient evidence. And invariably, even if the problem stops for a short period, it is likely to gradually start all over again…
Traffic noise, loud music, main roads, honking horns, barking dogs, noisy neighbours etc. will all seem so much worse if you have thin walls, a common issue in many modern houses and particularly true in blocks of flats.
A relatively easy solution might be to consider soundproofing a wall or walls, as appropriate. This is something most people could do themselves,
Read this article about how to soundproof a wall on Armstrong Supplies to know everything you need to know about the DIY project. The article goes into detail, teaching readers how to soundproof a wall by first identifying the type of noise that is bothering them. As you will see, possible countermeasures vary in accordance with the type and source of the noise, but the best part is, you will be able to find and order everything you need to soundproof the walls and windows, right there from the Armstrong Supplies website.
Loud noise can hamper your sleep or in worst-case scenarios, wake you up from deep sleep with a jolt. We all know how annoying this is, even if it happens only on rare occasions. Each time noise interferes with our sleep, we might experience the following symptoms:
- A case of bad mood throughout the day
- Anger, restlessness and anxiety
- Poor coordination
- Sudden and uncontrollable urge to sleep in the middle of the day
- Poor productivity in work or play
- Reduced brain function
- Autopilot mode and microsleep, things which lead to road accidents quite frequently
If you are wondering if all of that can happen from a single night of sleep deprivation, then think of your brain like a phone battery. It needs to be recharged at the end of every single charge cycle by sleeping, and even if it misses one proper cycle, it cannot function as it should do. Similar to how phones function on low power mode, your brain switches over to something similar, which is not enough to take on everyday tasks with the same efficiency. As a result, mood swings, poor productivity, anger management issues, etc. are unavoidable.
Poor sleep is not only bad news for our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, it is more important than ever to understand that sleep affects our immune system
Noise Pollution and Gradual Loss of Hearing
A sudden high pitch noise can lead to instant and permanent loss of complete/partial hearing. However, that is not exactly how general noise pollution works. Over the course of many days, months and years, constant noise pollution can lead to partial or even a complete loss of hearing.
Listening to loud music for hours at an end with your headphones on can also have the same effect on your hearing. Do consider that it might not just be others who are causing problems – you could be creating your own source of noise pollution that is damaging your health!
Noise Pollution can Lead to Stress and Physical Manifestations of Stress
There have been multiple confirmed effects of noise pollution on human and animal health. Most of these effects originate from the stress which loud noises in general invoke, and some of the most common examples would be:
- Hypertension, aka high blood pressure, headaches, heart attacks
- Intestinal disorders such as gastritis and colitis
- Hysteria, anxiety and depression
- Sleep deprivation, inability to concentrate, memorize and recall
Stress must be taken seriously. Stress is a killer that has been linked to the most common causes of death: dementia, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
The same effects of noise pollution are felt many times more intensely by animals. For example, marine animals that rely on echolocation to navigate themselves through the ocean are suffering quite heavily due to human sonar equipment placed below the sea.
Noise pollution in the workplace
According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) over 1 million employees in Great Britain are exposed to levels of noise at work which put their hearing and general wellbeing at risk.
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (Noise Regulations 2005) require employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work. Employees have duties under the Regulations too.
Employers have a legal duty to assess the risks, reduce the noise exposure where possible, provide appropriate hearing protection and information and training.
Employees should ensure they use any appropriate hearing protection provided. If you feel your employer is not providing sufficient support, speak to a senior manager or, if necessary, report the company to the HSE.
Are we contributing to noise pollution?
While we have discussed how noise pollution affects our health and a few actions we can take to alleviate the problem, we can all also try not to contribute to noise pollution ourselves. Simple things like honking our car horn in a residential area when we are picking someone up, turning our music up loud in the garden or with the windows wide open, or not taking steps to control barking dogs might be having a detrimental effect on our neighbours without us realising.
And perhaps when you are considering updating your car, you might even consider an electric version which not only reduces air pollution but also environmental pollution which is an ever-increasing problem, too…