What is noise pollution?
Noise pollution is real, and it can damage your mental and physical health. Many are already suffering and don't realize noise is the cause. Do you know if you are silently suffering from noise pollution?
The National Institutes of Health defines noise pollution as noise at excessive levels. The levels are measured in decibels, and anything above 80 decibels is considered harmful. This includes sounds such as
a leaf blower,
a jack hammer,
an emergency siren,
a rock concert,
and much more.
Nowadays, these types of noise are extremely common. In some living environments, several of these noise sources may be occurring at the same time. And with these external noises, there are also noises within your home that add up as well: loud televisions, loud music, children yelling, and dogs barking.
These individual noise pollution factors can add up to a big problem.
Noise pollution harms your hearing
Human ears are made of very sensitive structures that can be physically damaged by sound waves. Some people have more sensitive ears than others and may be damaged by noise at less than 80 decibels. It varies from person to person, but a good rule of thumb is to note whether you have to shout in the presence of the noise when you are one arm's length away. If you do have to shout, the noise is likely damaging your ears.
A lot of exposure to noise pollution will result in hearing loss. Therefore, you may have to actively avoid or mitigate noise in your environment. Wear ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones. Plant trees as a a noise absorption mechanism. Invest in weather stripping or double-pane windows if the noise is coming from outside.
Noise pollution harms animals
Animals are no different; they are harmed by noise pollution too.
Many animals, such as dogs, have more sensitive ears than humans. That means they can be more easily damaged by noise pollution, and they have less control over how to avoid that noise.
But it isn't just house pets that are suffering. Ocean dwellers are at serious risk for harm as a result of noise.
National Geographic wrote a piece about the harm that noise pollution can cause for whales and dolphins trying to use echolocation for survival in the ocean. They can't use echolocation effectively when loud noises, like that from ships and oil drills, overpower their efforts. This makes it hard for ocean creatures to find food, communicate, and navigate.
Noise pollution increases stress
Beyond damaging hearing, noise pollution has been shown to increase stress levels, heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety.
Children who live near noisy airports or streets have been found to suffer from impairments in memory, attention level, and reading skill.
It's amazing what a pervasive problem noise pollution has become, yet few people do anything about it. Introducing more silence into your life is crucial for your health.
The science of silence
There is actually quite a bit of research behind the idea that humans need silence. It's something we have become deprived of in more recent years, but our brains need it for proper functioning. This goes beyond just avoiding loud noises to save our ears from being damaged; this is truly sitting in silence for a short period each day to boost cognitive functioning.
Periods of silence are similar to meditation. Both allow the brain to sift through and process information. They also both promote the generation of brain cells.
Silence is a cure, in a way, for living a world filled with constant noise.