Sound is very important in our day to day lives, but noise is not. Any kind of noise is bothersome, but it becomes especially troublesome when it occurs at times we don’t want to hear it. The noise we hear every day isn’t just an annoyance; it negatively affects the health of the humans who have to listen to, and even the wildlife around us. Is the loud, late night party next door a threat to human and environmental health?
WHAT IS NOISE POLLUTION?
Noise pollution is any type of unwanted noise that happens regularly and interferes with life in ways that can harm or diminish the quality of life of humans or animals. Noise that happens only occasionally may be referred to as “nuisance” instead.
WHAT CAUSES NOISE POLLUTION?
Noise pollution is generally caused by human activity. Common causes include commercial and industrial activities such as sounds produced by manufacturing processes and construction sites, social events like parties and clubs, and methods of transportation, including airplanes, trains, and vehicle traffic. Households can also produce noise pollution through loud appliances, barking dogs, televisions, and sound systems.
EFFECTS OF NOISE POLLUTION ON HUMANS
Noise pollution interferes with human activities such as sleeping. Physically, being exposed to noise pollution can cause health problems such as hearing loss, high stress levels, hypertension, and tinnitus. Psychological health can also be negatively affected by chronic noise exposure.
Statistically, being exposed to noise pollution for just one 8 hour day causes a five to ten point increase in blood pressure points as well as a significant increase in stress. Repeated noise exposure has been linked to cardiovascular problems, especially coronary artery disease.
In addition to increased stress levels, being exposed to noise can cause anxiety and in some cases panic attacks. The psychological effects of noise pollution often manifest physiologically as headaches, nervousness, irritability, and fatigue. These effects decrease the quality of life as well as reduce work productivity.
EFFECTS OF NOISE POLLUTION ON WILDLIFE
The noise we make doesn’t only affect us. Noise pollution increases death in wildlife by interfering with predator and prey detection, as well as disrupting the communications that wildlife use in navigation and reproduction. Animals are also at risk of temporary or permanent hearing loss.
Marine animals, especially whales, are especially prone to health effects of noise pollution. Whales use their keen sense of hearing to defend themselves, communicate, and find food. Sonar disruptions can be serious enough to cause the whales to beach themselves.
REDUCING NOISE POLLUTION
It is possible to mitigate traffic noise by using noise barriers, lowering speed limits, and limiting the use of heavy vehicles such as commercial trucks. Traffic controls that allow traffic to flow smoothly with minimal acceleration and braking also reduce noise pollution from roads.
Technology increasingly aims to reduce aircraft and industrial noise.
Many communities are working to reduce noise pollution by creating local ordinances. It is now very common for municipals to limit the amount of noise households and businesses are allowed to put out, especially during the night hours.