Noise and Your Health

Is Noise Making You Ill?

Take a moment to answer the following questions:

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.

Hearing Loss
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.

Sleep Deprivation
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:

Last Updated: 11-Feb-2000
2000 NoiseWatch