It’s common in most cities. Construction workers and musicians consider it “part of the job.” What is it? It’s noise pollution and it’s time to listen up because the next sound you hear may hurt you.
Mounting evidence suggests that noise batters the body.
Sound waves literally crash against your body. Normal sound levels are harmless, of course. However, repeated exposure to prolonged, unusually loud sounds—the sonic disturbances we commonly call noise— can produce a range of deleterious effects.
In short, noise pollution, like any other form of pollution, poses health risks.
Remember, we are talking here only of noise pollution, and not sound within the normal decibel range. Our regular conversations, reasonable volume levels from the television and music players, household appliances and even most power tools are not, by themselves, noise pollution.
When we talk about the harmful effects of noise pollution, we mean the impact of decibel levels far above normal. Common sounds rarely rise above 40 dB. To give you a frame of reference, we have trouble drifting off to sleep if the noise level rises above decibels in the mid 40’s; by dB’s in the middle 80’s, many of us begin to suffer actual pain, and the particularly sensitive can even begin to lose hearing altogether.
Single everyday sounds rarely near the pain threshold. However, the cacophony of sounds enveloping us in some environments builds sound upon sound, as if brick-by-brick, to reach an aggregate noise level so high that many of us do, indeed, feel the effects of noise pollution.
What are the Effects of Noise Pollution?
Imagine: you are walking in the busy industrial district near the rail line at lunchtime. Large trucks with bad brakes, buses, cars, whistles, the warning beeps form heavy machinery in reverse, horns, planes overhead, screeching wheels on the freight train—I have a headache just typing about it.
That is classic noise pollution. The effects of noise pollution include aggression, sleeplessness, rising stress levels, hypertension and tinnitus, as well as:
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Mom, as usual, was right. Prolonged exposure to high volume levels leads causes hearing loss, and the groups affected most often are not, surprisingly, rock bands.
Persistent noise pollution has become the leading cause of hearing loss among those whose working conditions are loud, such as construction workers and machinists. Noise induced hearing loss, or NIHL, can stem from a single, very loud and sudden noise, but is more commonly the result of constant high-level exposure.
Compromised Cardiovascular System
Numerous health studies, such as several completed under the auspices of The World Health Organization, have linked cardiovascular problems and noise pollution; still others have traced moderately high noise levels to myocardial infarction, or heart attack. Common highway noise constricts the arteries and handicaps blood flow demonstrably. Collected statistics show that, on average, people in noisy environments complain more frequently of fatigue, vertigo, headaches and stomach ulcers.
Don’t believe the old myth, either: your body does not become acclimated to noise pollution. You might be able to tune it out of your mind, but the body still suffers the effects just as, if you live near a source of toxic gas, you might grow used to its odor while toxin slowly damages your body.