Growing Evidence that Noise is Bad for Your Health

Noise pollution is defined as the presence of sound that harms humans and can take many different forms. In contrast to other forms of pollution such as industrial waste, trash, and gaseous emissions, noise pollution directly impacts our health and wellbeing.

Growing Evidence that Noise is Bad for Your Health

by Dr. Kevin Ivory

Noise has previously been shown to be harmful to your hearing health, possibly causing irreversible noise-induced hearing loss. Researchers are now looking into the effects of excessive amounts of noise on your physical and mental health.

Noise pollution is defined as the presence of sound that harms humans and can take many different forms. In contrast to other forms of pollution such as industrial waste, trash, and gaseous emissions, noise pollution directly impacts our health and wellbeing.

Noise Pollution Research

The World Health Organization (WHO) released new guidelines showing that noise pollution has health consequences beyond emotional discomfort. Let's look at the WHO's recommendations and guidelines for this often-overlooked type of pollution.

Professor of psychiatry Stephen Stansfeld of Queen Mary University in London did a metadata analysis of eight different studies on the health impacts of noise pollution. This research contributes to the World Health Organization's understanding of when noise becomes a serious health issue. WHO has previously established tolerable noise levels for passenger aviation, rail, and highways. Each of these means of transportation can be inconvenient for those who utilize them and residents living near these land and air corridors.

WHO has included two new categories of noise contaminants in its latest proposal and set of guidelines: wind turbines and "leisure noise."

With wind turbines, information on the poor health impacts is still being collected. Many people who live near these units or wind farms complain about the unpleasant noises, and there is accumulating evidence that they may interfere with getting a good night's sleep. Residents living near wind turbines may report hearing low-frequency audio.

On the other hand, Leisure noise has a more well-defined health impact. Loud noise from nightclubs, bars, fitness classes, live sporting events, concerts, and live music venues can significantly impact listeners' capacity to hear. Many people are concerned about the hearing health of personnel at these venues and the effects on individuals. In some circumstances, neighbors may be affected as well. The perplexing aspect of this pollution is that individuals deliberately submit themselves to such loudness, making government intervention harder.

Also, consider traffic noise. According to a 2016 study, those who live in noisy areas are 25% more likely to be depressed than those in calmer areas. Research in Germany looked at 3,300 people who exhibited no indicators of depression and lived in three of Western Germany's most populous cities. They were asked to complete the survey again five years later. More than a third of the subjects had higher depression rates.

The effects of harmful noise

Like other types of pollution, noise pollution can cause health concerns such as asthma, respiratory disorders, and even cancer in individuals who are exposed to it.

According to the World Health Organization, exposure to noise from these sources has been linked to alarming health impacts, including an increased risk of abdominal obesity and diabetes. Although it is difficult to separate these illnesses from other factors obscuring the impact of noise, the harmful consequences on mental health are well documented. Although extended stress may be the intervening variable in the explanatory model, road traffic noise has been linked to an elevated risk of a heart attack.

What can be done about harmful noise

Choose where you live carefully. Choosing the right neighborhood can make all the difference regarding exposure to noise pollution. Before buying or renting, ask yourself: How noisy is this area? What kind of sounds am I likely to hear daily?

If you're concerned about noise pollution, here are some tips for finding quiet neighborhoods: Look for parks and green spaces nearby. Parks provide natural sound barriers to reduce traffic noises or other loud sounds that might bother you. If possible, choose a neighborhood with parks within walking distance so you can enjoy their peaceful atmosphere. Avoid homes near busy streets or highways if possible.

Keep your hearing safe. Make it a practice to use hearing protection when using power tools, mowing the lawn, or attending live sporting events or concerts to safeguard your hearing. It's never too early to begin hearing protection! Maintain a safe listening environment for your children by keeping the volume on their electronic devices below 60%.

If you've been exposed to noise for a long time, take a break and go somewhere calmer to rest your ears. While store-bought foam or silicone earplugs are better than nothing, if you spend a lot of time in noisy environments, consider investing in personalized hearing protection built from molds of your ear canals for a secure fit.

Do you have concerns about your hearing?

Dr. Kevin Ivory conducts comprehensive evaluations at our practice in Glendora, California. If you have hearing loss, we will work with you to identify the best hearing solution. To schedule a consultation, please get in touch with us today.

Written by
Reviewed by
Dr. Kevin H. Ivory
Audiologist & University Instructor
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Dr. Kevin Ivory, Au.D., CCC-A received his Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He then went on to earn his Doctor of Audiology degree from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, one of the top 10 audiology residential programs in the country.

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