Is the Noise in Your Life Harming Your Health?

harmful noiseIf you’ve ever flown on an airplane and, after hours of the rushing white noise, felt relief when you finally experienced silence or lived or worked along a railroad track or near an airport, then you know that environmental noise is distracting and tiring.

When we’re stressed, we often look to manage such things as events that are occurring in our life, conflict in relationships or sleep problems.  However, it's easy to overlook how our environment impacts our stress levels and our health.  Noise pollution is one aspect of daily life that is often overlooked, but significantly contribute to your stress levels.

According to this month’s Monitor on Psychology and a new report from the World Health Organization and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, noise pollution can be deadly.

What is noise pollution:

Noise pollution is environmental noise from humans, animals or machines, that is distracting, irritating and disrupts the activity or balance of human life.

Causes of noise pollution

There are many potential causes of noise pollution.  Some of the most common causes include:

  • Airplane traffic
  • Blaring car horns
  • Elevated trains
  • Hospitals
  • Entertainment noise

Health Effects of Noise Pollution

  • Stress.  Gary Evans, Ph.D., a professor of human ecology at Cornell University, suggests that children exposed to airplane noise traffic develop a stress response of ignoring noise, including speech.
  • Lower reading comprehension scores in children.  Several studies have found that children who hear airplane or train noise in their classrooms were as much as a year behind students in the same school who were in classrooms no exposed to train noise. (Environment and Behavior, Vol 7, No. 4).
  • Higher levels of stress hormones
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Higher incidence of fatal heart attacks
  • Hearing impairments (in which case, reach out to staten island audiology posthaste)

Reducing noise pollution is challenging for many reasons.  In hospitals, for example, it is difficult to install noise absorbing materials like carpeting because they are not easily cleaned.  Recently materials have been developed that are noise absorbing and limit the possibility of infection.

Photo by Dennis Yang, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.</small>

6 Replies to “Is the Noise in Your Life Harming Your Health?”

  1. The constant hum of ventilation equipment, either from air-flow noise or the vibration of the equipment itself contributes to office background noise. We also have the constant vibration of computer cooling fans, ringing phones, other cube-dwellers’ conversations, etc. At the end of the day the only “stress” I’ve had to endure is sitting at my desk, but I still go home fatigued. I was really hoping this article would address relentless office noise so I could forward it to HR. 🙂

  2. from living in a very quiet areai moved to a home near a motorway which caused me much stress,on moving back to a quiet place i reacted with a breakdown, as i look back i’m sure my breakdown was as a result of the build up of stress whilst in the noisy place , noise we have no control over is very bad for us physically and mentally this i am convinced of

  3. White noise is a constant sound that allows a person to relax or even fall asleep and stay asleep longer. It is a distraction from outside noise. A fan running year round…a sound machine…etc.

  4. You are missing the point: train and aircraft noise is disruptive because they are single events breaking into relative quietude. The consequence is that the “flight” response wired in over the expanse of human existence is triggered.

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