While air and ocean pollution get the lion’s share of coverage in the media, it’s not something that directly affects most people living in the western world daily. Noise pollution, however, is different. It’s something that most people have to put up with at some point in their day, whether it’s neighbors shouting at each other, passing traffic or the sound of a building site.
Noise pollution isn’t harmless. In fact, it can take a severe toll on your mental wellbeing.
It’s vital that you understand it and take measures to stop it from adversely affecting your mental health.
Damage to hearing
Audiologists have known for a long time that the ear is a delicate piece of biological machinery. The internal component evolved in an environment where the loudest sounds that people heart were cracks of thunder. The modern world, however, is replete with noises that are much louder than thunder and longer-lasting too.
Sensorineural hearing loss is the type of hearing loss that audiologists associate with exposure to loud sounds in the environment. Over time, the energy in sound waves reaching the ear damage the eardrum and small hair-like sound receptors in the middle ear. Slowly the affected person loses their hearing sensitivity.
The threshold for damaging sounds is surprisingly low – around 85 decibels – or the sound of somebody shouting a few feet away. People regularly experience noises louder than this without realizing it. Aircraft, for instance, can produce loud sounds above 140 decibels. Trains can easily go above 100 decibels.
While hearing loud noises in the external environment doesn’t usually lead to psychological disorders, chronic sound in your home can seriously affect mental health.
Research shows that people who experience high levels of daily noise in their homes can experience irritability, make irrational decisions, feel nervous, or feel uneasy throughout the day. People need a large dose of silence throughout the day, especially in the evenings and at night.
Keeping the noise out of your house can be a challenge, but believe it or not, it’s possible. You can get tips from Soundproof Living, showing you how to do it, whether you live in a detached house or a busy city apartment.
Lack of sleep
The human body evolved in a time of relative silence. Throughout history, people slept without the incessant noise of cars whizzing by outside or the hum of media devices in other people’s homes. But today, that’s all changed. We live in an environment of continual noise, especially in city centers.
While most people can sleep through habitual noise once they get used to it, it can still affect the quality of the sleep. Noise is a signal to the primitive brain that it needs to be alert. The sound of cars whizzing by outside could be a predator, so it’s wise not to sleep too deeply.
Of course, traffic isn’t a direct threat when you’re in bed, but your body doesn’t know this. As a result, you never get the deep sleep that you need to function at your best during the day. You can feel tired, underperform at work, feel depressed, and become more likely to reach for high-calorie foods.
Greater risk of cardiovascular disease
We like to think that cardiovascular disease is something that results from the type of diets that we eat. But there’s evidence that there are many contributing factors, including noise pollution.
Researchers at the University of Gothenburg wanted to find out whether chronic noise pollution had an adverse effect on heart disease over a long period of many years. What they found was startling: those exposed to noise pollution for more than ten years experience a four-fold increase in the risk of heart disease when they got older – more than smoking.
The scientists involved hypothesized that noise pollution increased a person’s blood pressure and constricted the small blood vessels in peripheral tissues. The body finds it harder to push blood into these tissues, putting people at a higher risk of heart disease and death.
Problems with speech
Finally, noise can cause problems and interfere with your ability to speak. And we’re not just talking about the direct effects of high sound levels making it hard to converse with somebody across a room. Hearing loss can lead people to develop issues with their speech over time.
The conclusion, therefore, is that noise pollution is bad and you should take steps, if possible, to keep it out of your home. With modern soundproofing technology, it’s actually easier than you think.