Noise Pollution & Its Effect On Health

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You’ve probably experienced noise pollution at some point in your life. In our modern society, it’s hard to avoid, even if you live in more rural communities. There’s simply more of the things that make noise! More traffic, more industry, more people all adds to the overall noise levels, but what damage is it having on our health, and what can we do to help combat the effects?

There are a number of ways that noise pollution can impact our health. From simple annoyance, to some very serious side-effects and noise pollution can affect different people in different ways. The World Health Organisation (WHO) conducted a comprehensive study into the subject of noise pollution in Europe and the results are quite shocking.

They concluded that a million healthy years are lost in Europe each year as a direct result of noise pollution. They noted that ‘there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population’ and linked the problem to everything from anxiety to cardiovascular issues. Even with these very serious findings, they didn’t include noise pollution encountered in the workplace!

A big problem with ambient, or background noise, is that we’re not always consciously aware of it. Our brains get used to a certain amount of noise and filter it out of our awareness to a degree. But just because our brains are blocking it out, doesn’t mean that our ears aren’t still damaged by the loud sounds. By the time we realise there’s a problem, it can often be too late.

If you live in a big city, or close to an industrial area, etc. noise pollution can impact your sleep and this alone can lead to serious health problems in the long term. Aside from these well documented issues, sleep deprivation can cause poor work performance, mood swings and a whole host of mental health problems that you may not associate directly with noise.

So what can we do to combat the negative impact of noise pollution in our daily lives and how do we protect our hearing from even the often unheard background hum of modern life? Certainly if you work in a noisy environment, you’ll probably be required by law to wear appropriate ear protection, but what about outside of work?

I would suggest that just because we are not required to wear ear protection, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consider doing so. Current best advice would suggest that we should avoid loud noises if possible, but if we can’t, ear protection is advisable. As a musician and avid gig-goer, I always use ear protection when I can’t control the noise levels by either moving away from the source, or turning the sound down. We should aim to control what we can and protect ourselves from what we have no control over.

If you live in a city where the noise pollution outside of your home is out of your control, you could consider a sound proofing solution that will drastically reduce the amount of noise entering from the outside world. Not only does this help reduce the hidden damage of ambient noise, but also goes a long way to dealing with sleep deprivation due to noise pollution.

We often consider noise pollution to be unavoidable or just part of modern life, but we need to change our attitude towards it, for the sake of our health. It may have been acceptable even 20 years ago, but with a measurable increase in the levels of noise pollution, combined with more up-to-date research on the effects it’s having on our health, it certainly deserves more of our attention.

Consider where you can make adjustments to the amount of noise you’re subjected to and take the necessary steps to reduce your exposure where you can. If you believe that your hearing may have been damaged by noise pollution, or that you’re suffering a condition as a result of over exposure to noise, consult with your health professionals and they will be able to advise you of the best course of action. The sooner you make changes to the amount of noise pollution you’re being exposed to, the less likely you are to experience long-term health problems as a result.