Noise pollution: chances are, you’re surrounded by it more than you realise. Citydwellers know the all-too-disruptive street soundtrack, with constant traffic, trains, construction, sirens, car horns, etc. buzzing in the background. But crowded cities aren’t solely to blame. Even outside of urban environments, noise pollution impacts us in ways we wouldn’t expect. The everyday hum of refrigerators, TVs, computers, washing machines, passing airplanes, lawnmowers, phones and other unavoidable sounds can eventually wear on our ears and our bodies. Even ones we love – babies, pets, loud housemates – can be harmful after long-term exposure.
What is noise pollution’s effect on your health?
The American Psychological Association found that a steady exposure to noise pollution can induce high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, stress, hypertension, sleep deprivation, immune dysfunction and anxiety. It can also trigger or worsen tinnitus, which already impacts one out of every ten Australians. Children are perhaps the most at risk of sound’s negative side effects, with studies revealing that classrooms on flight paths or near railways reap lower test scores compared to students seated in quieter environments.
A Sydney-based acoustic engineer explained that there’s a direct link between sound and illness, mainly because sound waves cause vibrations that can end up making us sick. Imagine sitting next to a concrete wall with loud music blaring through it – after a while, your body’s reaction may be dizziness, nausea, or severe agitation. Essentially, the effects are similar to those involved in motion sickness.
From physical to psychological
We often discuss sound’s impact on our ears, and now on our other body parts and systems, but it shouldn’t be forgotten the ear is just sound’s vehicle to the brain. Ears simply pick up sound waves and transport them to the brain’s temporal lobe to be interpreted. This brain function is actually quite advanced, which means noise is becoming more of a psychological phenomenon than simply physical.
What can you do to avoid it?
Unfortunately, without uprooting your entire life to reside in a secluded mountain commune, not loads can be done to change the loud world around you. However, you can change how you live in it. We suggest investing in a nice pair of noise cancelling headphones or over-the-ear sound protection for noises you know will get to you. Additionally, selecting a restaurant table away from a busy street front or noisy kitchen or choosing a school/office space/home away from traffic and travel hubs is a good way to avoid damage from overexposure, too.