In our fast-paced and high-tech world, noise has become a routine part in many of our lives. Routine construction in developing cities and suburbs, blaring horns of rush-hour traffic, and the constant hum of indoor electronic devices seem to creep into every corner of our environment. While we may subconsciously tune out many of these daily sounds, the truth is that noise pollution can have an impact on our health and overall quality of life.
“Noise pollution” is defined as excessive, disruptive, or unwanted sound that interferes with normal activities, and it can come from sources including vehicle or airplane traffic, construction, and even social settings. Consistent exposure to noise levels above 85 dB (ie. power lawn mowers, kitchen blenders, busy city traffic) can be permanently damaging to our fragile inner-ears. Below are examples of how noise impacts our quality of life, and tips about how to be mindful of your hearing and overall health.
Stress and Anxiety: Continuous exposure to noise, especially at high levels, can lead to chronic stress and anxiety. Elevated levels of stress hormones can have detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.1
Sleep Disturbances: Noise disrupts our sleep patterns, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Even low-intensity noise can lead to poor sleep quality, which has a cascading effect on our overall health.2
Hearing Damage: As mentioned above, prolonged exposure to high-decibel sounds can cause irreversible hearing damage. This can also result in tinnitus – a constant ringing, buzzing, or hissing in the ears.3 Permanent hearing damage has been known to lead to an increased risk of depression, cognitive decline, and social isolation.
Cognitive Impairment: Noise pollution affects our ability to concentrate and make decisions. Chronic noise exposure has been linked to decreased cognitive performance, particularly in tasks requiring focused attention.4
Increased Risk of Mental Health Issues: Some studies have suggested that living in noisy environments is associated with an increased risk of mental health problems, including depression and mood disorders.5
To protect your health from noise pollution, you can take several steps. Minimize time spent in noisy environments, especially those with loud and prolonged noises. If you work with loud machinery, are around heavy road traffic, or use transportation that is noisy, be sure to regularly wear earplugs or earmuffs to reduce the intensity of the sound. If you like listening to music through headphones throughout the day, stay aware of how loud the volume is. It’s also wise to take breaks from music, calls, audio, and the bustle of loud environments to give your ears – and mind – a rest.
If you have questions or concerns about your hearing health and how it impacts your overall quality of life, reach out to a nearby hearing professional today.