As you sit in the quiet of your own home, what can you hear right now? Is it just the twittering of soft bird sounds or maybe the slow flow of nearby traffic? There might be some construction noise in the distance or a lawnmower buzzing away next door.
For many people, their surroundings are not as silent as they would like them to be. Much of the world’s population is now dealing with substantial exposure to unnecessary noise from their environment. What do you do when you’re exposed, and what can you do to protect your hearing?
How noise can pollute your neighborhood
While residents of very noisy communities may be disturbed by continuous noise intrusion into their homes, what they may not realize is that this form of pollution, much like air and water pollution, may have a lasting impact on their wellbeing. Here are several ways that noise pollution can impact your health.
An increased risk of hearing loss: It has long been established that high noise levels lead to hearing loss. Although the level of sound above which damage may occur is widely recognized as 85 dB (decibels), the damage threshold is lower when exposed for a longer duration, and the EPA recommends a decibel limit of 55 dB for 24 hours. For your reference, the average hairdryer noise level is 70 dB.
Increased stress: The continuous stream of unwanted sound often disturbs sleep and adds stress to our lives, activating our body’s fight or flight response and increasing blood pressure levels. Researchers have now associated noise pollution with heart problems like heart disease and hypertension. Approximately 3 percent of Europe’s heart disease can be linked to long-term exposure to road noise, according to the World Health Organization.
Psychological effects: People living in noisy environments show higher stress levels, anxiety, nervousness, and exhaustion. Research also indicates that growing up in high noise pollution has a profoundly detrimental impact on children’s growth, including language learning for an infant.
What cities can do to protect against noise pollution
Since noise pollution is a problem that happens everywhere, from the streets to our homes to the restaurants and shops that we regularly visit – concerted efforts are required to tackle it.
Noise pollution is still, for the most part, a largely overlooked issue not often addressed by local authorities or leaders, even though this is gradually changing. Some cities are in the process of taking steps to protect against noise emissions by releasing maximums of one-hour average noise levels at certain hours for specific events. It’s not enough, but it’s a start.
Such laws are hard to enforce, however. Some city-based groups are working to help raise public awareness of noise pollution and implore local businesses to reduce their operations’ noise rates and provide urban residents with noise relief.
Protecting yourself and those you love from noise pollution
There are strict noise emission standards in most US suburban areas. These involve hours of stillness, usually from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., during which time noise must be kept as low as possible. To track illegal noise pollution occurring during the night, you should contact your local law enforcement.
On a more long-term basis, you can make a few adjustments to your property to help dampen the noise:
- Create a fence around your yard to shield yourself from daytime noise emissions and serve as a sound barrier from unwanted noise.
- Plant plenty of trees or shrubs in your yard, because they will not only look beautiful but absorb unwanted sounds as well.
- Another alternative is to install a water feature such as a fountain in your yard, which will serve as white noise to block out background noise.
- Try dampening noise from the inside by adding carpets in the bedrooms and drapes on the walls. You can also place foam under speakers to soften their sounds.
- Finally, try to maintain a quiet home environment if you can. This includes keeping music and TV levels down.
UpState Hearing Instruments
Merely being aware of noise levels in your community will help you understand what you can do about it. If you take the time to evaluate your hearing health needs and take action to protect your hearing, your overall physical and mental health will benefit. If you’ve noticed a change in your hearing, contact us today to set up an appointment!
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