Noise and Your Health
Is Noise Making You Ill?
Take a moment to answer the following questions:
- Do you experience rapid heartbeat, stomach cramps and/or diarrhea at the onset of noise?
- Do you sometimes tremble uncontrollably and break out into a cold sweat when exposed to unwanted noise?
- Do you feel an overwhelming sense of anger toward the person causing the noise? Do you entertain violent fantasies about that person?
- Do you get angry and upset just thinking about noise even when everything is quiet for the moment?
- Are you ever exposed to noise levels above 85 decibels?
If you answered 'yes' to one or more of the above questions, chances are noise is harming your health.
How Can Noise Make You Ill?
Noise can affect your body in three ways: hearing loss, stress, and sleep deprivation.
Most people have heard of noise-induced hearing loss. Hearing loss can occur either through repeated, prolonged exposures to noise exceeding 85 decibels, or through short exposure to an extremely intense noise. Most cases of hearing loss result from the former. The sound-transmitting hair cells in the inner ear become increasingly damaged; each additional exposure compounds the problem.
Note: Hearing loss is cumulative and irreversible.
Noise is a powerful source of stress. When noise is unwanted and intrusive it can trigger strong stress reactions.
These include the release of several stress hormones, changes in heart rate and rhythm, a rise in blood cholesterol levels, as well as digestive upsets.
Long-term noise exposure and high blood pressure have been consistently linked in numerous studies. It therefore appears that noise may play a role in such cardio-vascular diseases as heart disease.
Recent research also indicates that stress hormones released during prolonged noise exposure may impair the immune system. This may be of particular importance to people whose immune system is already impaired, such as cancer and AIDS patients.
Your attitude toward the unwanted noise directly affects your level of stress. The more helpless you feel, the greater your level of stress. If you perceive the noise as unnecessary and preventable, your annoyance will increase as well.
Noise-induced disturbances of sleep can have substantial effects on subsequent task performance.
Frequent disruptions of sleep contribute to daytime drowsiness, fatigue, and lack of concentration. As a result, your safety may be at risk.
Noise And Your Mind
Noise affects how people interact with each other and learn.
People in noisy environments show increased aggression and hostility, and are less likely to be helpful.
While music can lighten up dreary and repetitive chores, complex mental tasks become more difficult to perform and the number of mistakes tends to increase.
Reading scores and language development of students in noisy environments lag behind their peers from quieter environments.
What Can You Do To Stay Healthy?
Unfortunately, noise problems cannot always be resolved speedily. Try the following tips to help you stay healthy and sane in the meantime:
- Wear Earplugs: Earplugs are an effective and cheap method to protect your hearing.
- Exercise: A vigorous workout will help your body get rid of stress hormones and provide an outlet for anger and frustration.
- Eat a Healthy Diet: Your body needs all the nutrients it can get to minimize the impact of stress on your system.
- Get Enough Sleep: You will feel better and cope better with adversities if you're well rested.
- Learn Relaxation Techniques: Most school boards offer evening classes in Yoga or Meditation. These methods can help you reduce stress.
- Become an Anti-Noise Activist: Joining like-minded people in the fight against noise will give you confidence and know-how.
Last Updated: 11-Feb-2000
© 2000 NoiseWatch