The Growing Problem of Noise Pollution

The Growing Problem of Noise Pollution

In hearing loss causes, Lifestyle, Prevention by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Laurie Duffy, M.S.

We’ve gotten so used to traffic, technology alerts, manufacturing noise that can be heard outside the facility that it just seems a natural part of the urban environment. But those sounds are referred to by many as part of the urban plague and there are growing concerns about the problems associated with noise pollution.

If you have concerns your hearing may be harmed because of noise pollution, schedule a hearing evaluation at HearCare.

Everyday noise

Noise is a part of life. Noise pollution is sound that rises to the level of being harmful or disturbing to our everyday lives. We are used to most of the sounds and, unfortunately, many go through life not realizing exposure to noise pollution puts your hearing at risk, causes stress and a wide range of physical and psychological ailments.

Noise pollution starts in the home. We are surrounded by gadgets that make noise, from blenders to vacuum cleaners to lawn mowers, washers, TVs, the radio and the air conditioner. Without realizing it, the noise grinds away at you. Add barking dogs, crying children, perhaps some home renovations and noise becomes disturbing.

Then there’s industrial noise. Most industries, even though computerization and robots have calmed sound a little, still use heavy machinery. The machinery may be used in packaging or even generating extra power for a facility. People who live in or near industrial towns are most affected by noise pollution.

Social noise is taken for granted. Parties, weddings, outdoor markets, malls, restaurants and clubs all play a role in noise pollution. Consider the number of cities and towns that have had to enact noise ordinances to handle the growing problem! Then there’s traffic and in many cities’ commuter trains, subways, bus stations, homes located near airports. Transportation noise can cause hearing problems over time.

As cities grow and spread out, construction adds to noise pollution. From building a new home next door to constructing a new bridge, equipment used for all types of construction contributes to our noise load.

Effects of noise pollution

  • Sound – and noise – is processed by delicate cells on tiny hairs in the inner ear. There is no evidence our physical apparatus to process sound has evolved to deal with the increase in noise. Once the cells are damaged or destroyed, they don’t regenerate.
  • Noise pollution can lead to temporary or permanent hearing problems. It can cause psychological issues like stress, especially working in crowded offices. Noise pollution has been linked to sleeping problems and anxiety disorders as well as high blood pressure and an elevated heart rate.
  • Noise pollution causes the obvious communication problem.

Protect yourself from noise

It’s a good idea to have a regular family quiet time in the morning and the evening. This would be a no electronic device period to allow everyone to prepare for the day and unwind at night. If your family is not convinced about noise pollution – take a drive to a large park or forest and sit in the quiet – that’s usually a convincing experience.

Any noise over 85 decibels is considered unsafe for the human ear and dangerous if there is long exposure involved. Take the time to assess what you do in your home to reduce the noise pollution there. Turn off electronic devices you aren’t using. Consider sound proofing your home, or at the very least, sound proofing your bedroom. You’ll sleep easier.
Move away from the loud noises. Don’t sit on the deck if your air conditioner is right there and churning away. Don’t sit next to the refrigerator when its cycling and the loudest.

Know which noise is the loudest. Jet engines, lawn mowers, motorcycles, powerboats and chainsaws are all over 85 decibels. As a rule, if you are an arm’s length away from someone having a conversation and you must shout – the area is too loud.

So wear ear protection, ear plugs or ear muffs or both if you need to, to protect your hearing. Keep your personal audio equipment volume at a decent level and if you must listen to it louder than what would be considered “decent” take frequent breaks.

Get a hearing test

A hearing test each year will ensure you are taking proper care of your hearing health. And a reminder from your friends at HearCare – ears are not a renewable resource. Take care of them.