The Dangers of Noise Pollution

Even if you’re not always aware of the sound, noise pollution can affect both mental and physical health, and few are aware of the actual impact of this menace on to our wellbeing. How much noise pollution do you encounter on a regular basis? Given that noise pollution doesn't necessarily mean high decibels, it might be harming more than you realize. Moreover, even if you’ve learned to tune it out, it could have profound and lasting effects on your health. We have the details.

Effects on Mental Health

Noise can wreak havoc on mood even if you don't have a sensory processing disorder. Researchers have found people who live near airports tend to be more stressed out, and as stress does it can affect their behavior. Living on a loud street can nearly double a woman’s risk of suffering mental health issues, with a man’s risk raising as high as 2.5 times. Residents of city environments, where sound and other types of pollution can be more prominent, are more likely to suffer from depression, alcoholism and addictive disorders.

Cardiovascular Effects

Noise pollution can be a source of chronic stress, which can lead to hypertension and other forms of cardiovascular disease. People who sleep near a busy street, particularly if they sleep with their window open, which increases noise exposure, are more likely to have high blood pressure. In some cases, sound itself might be physically damaging to the arteries. The combined effects of noise and air pollution may have detrimental effects on immune function, vascular health and blood lipid levels, including high cholesterol.

Sleep Disturbances

We all need adequate rest to function and stay in good health. Noise pollution can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, causing chronic sleep deprivation. This can lead to a host of problems, including daytime fatigue, depression, impaired work performance and an increase in damaging and fatal accidents. Irritability over unwanted noise at night can affect mood throughout the following day. The effects may be more profound in shift workers, seniors and people with sleep disorders or other health problems.

Hearing Loss

Of course, we know that noise causes hearing loss. But some of the noise pollution we’re exposed to can lead to permanent hearing loss. This is roughly the noise of a garbage disposal, or a diesel truck at 50 feet, or a car wash at 20 feet.

According to the National Library of Medicine, any sound over 80 decibels can cause damage. Some of the common sounds that can slowly destroy your hearing include those from construction and landscaping equipment, nearby jet planes, emergency sirens, gunshots and fireworks displays. The damage may be further increased by going to sporting events or concerts, using a hairdryer or listening to loud music, the latter is worst when using headphones.

Reduce Your Risks

We might not be able to change where we live or what kinds of random sounds will pop up, but we can take some steps to decrease exposure:

  • Use earplugs in places with loud noise or even consider using them at night to dampen outside traffic and loud neighbors.
  • Move the bedroom, if possible, so it’s as far as possible from the street as it can be.
  • Have our homes better insulated against sound.
  • Wear noise-canceling headphones, keeping them at a reasonable volume, to block damaging noise while on commuter lines.

Reducing exposure can reduce the long-term repercussions. Noise pollution is an unfortunate side effect of our modern world, and it may be inescapable in some places. Regardless of where you live or what your job or commute may expose you to, you can take measures to reduce its impact on your hearing and long-term health — hopefully reducing stress in the process. Take a moment and listen: What sounds could be affecting you?

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2/13/2020 8:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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