Noise pollution refers to, a prolonged exposure to high decibels of sound that can cause serious health and environmental problems. It is generally defined as regular exposure to elevated sound levels that eventually cause an adverse array of problems for humans, animals and the environment.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB). According to the World Health Organization (WHO) sound levels less than 70 dB are not damaging to living organisms, regardless of how long or consistent the exposure is. However exposures to sound levels of or above 85dB can cause serious health problems in humans and animals.
Causes and Sources of Noise Pollution:
Long exposure to sound measured at 85dB is a source of Noise pollution. It is so omnipresent in today’s society that we often fail to even notice it anymore. Some of these sources include:
- Street traffic sounds that is produced by cars, buses and heavy traffic
- Construction sounds that are produced by heavy machinery such as cranes, lifters, trucks and drills.
- Airports are a major source of noise pollution – this includes noise generated by air traffic
- Loud music at concerts or even listening to loud music on your headphones can cause serious case of Noise induced hearing loss
- Industrial sounds like generators, compressors and mills
- Household sounds, television, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, dishwashers, lawnmowers
- Gun fires and explosions
- Mining explosions and drills
- Oceanic sonar devices and Oil drills
- Ships and Motor boats
- Screaming and conflict
Adverse effects of Noise Pollution on Human Health:
Noise Pollution is a health concern and an invisible danger. The results may not be seen immediately but they exist nonetheless and cause a great deal of health problems in humans. According to a research Noise pollution is the second greatest cause of ailments in humans and is only right behind Air pollution. Around 40 million people in the US have reported serious health issues caused by noise pollution. While 22 million people in Europe suffer from adverse effects such as hearing loss, stress, cognitive disabilities and sleep induced problems because of noise pollution.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss:
Noise Induced hearing loss or NIHL is a permanent shift In Pure-tone thresholds that leads to a sensorineural hearing loss. Long term exposure to a high decibel sound contributes immensely to the severity of these threshold shifts. Noise induced threshold shifts vary between 3000Hz to 6000Hz a notch on an audiogram. Auditory systems are damaged when exposed to either long term or a single traumatic experience and in most cases it is unilateral. This means people who have been exposed to a traumatic experience either at work or during an accident lose hearing around the frequency of the triggering sound trauma.
Tinnitus is an auditory ailment characterized by the perception of sound, in the ear/head of a person, in the absence of an external sound source. There are two main types of Tinnitus. This includes Subjective tinnitus, which is characterized by the perception of sound which can only be heard by the affected person and objective tinnitus which can be monitored by an external source, by an audiologist through a stethoscope. The severity of tinnitus can either cause a shift between a pulsating and a non-pulsating sound.
Noise pollution is closely associated with causing severe cardiovascular problems, particularly hypertension. A long exposure to high decibel sounds can cause elevated blood pressure, constriction of arteries, an increase in cortisol and angiotensin-II levels which are respectively associated with oxidative stress and vascular inflammations. Exposure to high levels of noise pollution can lead to severe heart problems and in extreme cases can cause a stroke.
Years of research has proven that noise pollution can cause a severe set of psychological problems. This includes Noise induced annoyance that can lead to tremendous amounts of stress and anxiety. Severe cases of noise pollution are also closely related to violent reactions. People exposed to high decibel sounds, can have altered personalities and an increase in stress levels.
Stress and Depression:
Psychological health effects caused by noise pollution also includes severe cases of depression, anxiety and high levels of stress. People who suffer Noise induced hearing loss are 50% more prone to suffer from depression and anxiety driven habits. This in the longer run cause a detriment in living standards reduced work and social productivity and greater chances of self-isolation.
Noise Pollution and its effects on Children:
Noise pollution starts effecting children even before they are born. According to a research the chances of physical and mental ailments in a fetus increases if the expectant mother had been exposed to noise pollution during her pregnancy. Extreme exposure to noise causes vasoconstriction in the mother’s body which in fact reduces the blood flow to the fetus. This naturally means reduced amount of oxygen and nutritional flow to the baby. A reduced protein flow causes specific health problems such as harelip, weaker bones, underweight deliveries, problems with cleft palate and defects in spine.
Cognitive development problems:
Children exposed to noisier environments are prone to develop learning disabilities. Cognitive development problems including speech perception disabilities and writing learning impairments such as dysgraphia are commonly apparent in children who are exposed to high levels of noise disturbance.
Noise pollution is also closely related to sleep disorders such as insomnia. An exposure to a high level of disturbance at night can cause extreme fluctuations of blood flow during sleep.
How to reduce Noise Pollution:
In order to ensure a healthier lifestyle it is important to reduce our exposure to noise pollution by:
- Planting trees: trees act as natural noise buffers
- Car pool to reduce traffic
- Using ear plugs and safety headphones at work (especially near construction sites)
- Install double panned windows
- Sound proofing doors and houses
- Regulating laws by collaborating with your neighborhood and government to reduce noise pollution
Whether we realize we are subjected to it or not, noise pollution can be hazardous to our health in various ways. It is not only imperative to reduce Noise pollution to avoid health problems in humans but it is also important for the well-being of our environment.