When we think of excessive noise most of us think of a loud concert or live sporting event. We may even remember that car or air show we went to one time. But the truth is that noise affects us every day. From traffic sounds to kids playing, we are often surrounded by more noise pollution than we realize.
What is noise pollution and where does it come from?
Noise pollution is considered any excessive or unwanted noise and believe it or not, it can have an impact on a person’s mental and physical health.
Let’s do an experiment. Consider your surroundings at this very moment. Are you inside or outside? At home or in public? If you are inside, can you hear soft noises like the air conditioning or heater? What about slightly louder noises like the washing machine? Are there people talking or children playing and screaming nearby? What about traffic noise or an airplane flying over? All of these noises add up and can be considered noise pollution.
Sources of noise pollution are wide ranging however for the purposes of understanding how it impacts our everyday lives, let’s narrow it down and look at the sources of noise pollution that could be in our own neighborhood.
- Other people in the home: talking, playing, screaming
- Entertainment sources: televisions, radios, music, podcasts
- Appliances: dishwasher, washing machine and dryer
- Air conditioning and heaters
- Smaller appliances: food blenders and mixers, hair dryers
- Street traffic including car horns and alarms
- Air traffic: planes or helicopters flying overhead
- Construction: roofers and other home construction projects
- Yard work: lawn mowers, leaf blowers, grass edger
- People and animals such as kids playing outside or dogs barking
What are the health impacts of noise pollution?
While it may be easy to imagine that this level of noise can impact a person’s mental well-being, what may surprise you is the impact it can also have on your physical health. This is because our mental health is overwhelmingly connected to our physical health.
You’ve been listening to the roofers next door for days now and the kids won’t stop screaming and somehow just the soft noise of your partner typing on their computer has now sent you over the edge. You are overwhelmed and stressed and it’s this stress that leads to harmful effects on your health. Below are just some of the health impacts noise pollution can have on you.
- Noise- induced hearing loss (NIHL)
- Sleep disturbances
- Heart disease
- Irritability and aggression
How can you protect yourself from noise pollution?
Now that we better understand noise pollution and the potentially detrimental effects it can have on our well-being, how can we protect ourselves?
For the more obvious and louder noises we are exposed to around the neighborhood such as lawn mowers and other yard equipment, ear protection is the best option. Because you may be exposed to this noise for a couple hours at a time or maybe longer and extended exposure to loud noise is known to cause hearing loss, noise reducing headphones and ear plugs are a good idea. Ear plugs, especially, are easily accessible and a cost effective method to mitigate your noise exposure.
In regards to other outdoor noises such as traffic noises, it has been suggested that planting additional trees and bushes in your yard can help mitigate those noises.
Concerning the softer but more continuous noises that you hear around the home the best course of action is small changes to your lifestyle. If no one is watching the television, turn it off, don’t leave it on in the background. Rugs and carpets instead of hard flooring can reduce unwanted sounds as well. Curtains on windows can also help to reduce outside noises inside the home.
Ultimately the first step to reducing noise exposure in your home and neighborhood is awareness. Understanding all the different sources of noise pollution and then working to minimize your exposure will all help to reduce its impact on your health and improve your well-being.