Noise pollution is unwanted, excessive, and disturbing noise that affects people’s quality of life. We can be affected by noise pollution at home, at our places of work, and when outdoors.
At present, at least 80% Americans live in urban areas, and urbanization means a lot of noise.
Common causes of noise pollution range from industrial activities using loud machines, poorly planned urban development, particularly when residential and industrial areas are built side by side, transportation, including road traffic, air traffic, and trains, road and building construction to household noises, such as television, radio, vacuum cleaners, juicers, and loud conversation.
What are the physical and mental effects of noise pollution?
According to the World Health Organization, noise pollution is not only an annoyance, but also a risk to public health. Frequent exposure to noise pollution can lead to cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in children, sleep disturbance, and tinnitus. Surprisingly, different types of noise pollution affect us in very different ways.
Sufficient evidence claims that chronic stress caused by air traffic sounds may lead to higher blood pressure, whereas road traffic may not only increase risk of high blood pressure, but also of heart attack. Developmental disabilities in children
Long-term exposure to air traffic may negatively affect children in terms of long-term memory and reading comprehension.
Repeated noise disturbance at night leads to fragmented sleep, which in turn may result in physical and mental fatigue, memory impairment, irritability, and increased risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Tinnitus is the perception of sound such as ringing, hissing, or roaring when there is no external sound to attribute it to. Tinnitus can be a permanent condition, or it may last just a few minutes. Recurrent or permanent tinnitus can be a symptom of hearing loss and damage.
What you can do
Although noise pollution can have a significant impact on your quality of life, there are many steps you can take to reduce the consequences.
One successful measure is installing sound-control windows, double-paned windows, and/or weather-stripping around your windows and doors. You probably won’t completely stop the annoying noise from entering your home, but it will certainly help.
Another effective measure is planting dense rows of trees and shrubs to reduce noise. These well-planned ‘vegetation belts’ work by acting as a buffer and can reduce noise pollution by as much as 40-50%. Trees and shrubs that are planed close together will do a better job of buffering noise than if they are farther apart. Keep in mind to choose plants with dense foliage as these will absorb sound better.
Here are a few ways to escape and diminish the impact of noise pollution on our lives.
Visit a library, art gallery, or museum. As these are traditionally quiet institutions, they are quite efficient when trying to escape disturbing noise.
Escape to nature. Being out in nature is a great way to get away from the noises and pressures of everyday life no matter whether you like hiking, camping, cycling, or fishing.
Unplug. Turn off your television, radio, and other sound-emitting devices, and try to introduce small periods of quiet time at home.
Consider taking up a new type of relaxing, quiet hobby. The options are endless, but you can think of meditation, yoga, woodcarving, hiking, gardening, knitting, painting, or baking. Just remember to unplug your devices—you don’t need the blare of television, radio, podcasts, or music to keep you company during these activities.
Sources: World Health Organization, Environmental Protection Agency