Noise Pollution and Health

When does sound become noise?

Not necessarily when it directs your thoughts in another direction. Enjoyable music is likely to create pleasant thoughts and carefree feelings and is pleasant sound. When sound is constant, loud or annoying it can disturb and cause tension and anxiety. It is noise.

There is also noise that you do not hear consciously. Spending two days in a motel squeezed between a highway and the beach, we did not notice the traffic sound anymore after an hour or so had passed. But when we later watched a video of the wedding on the beach, the steady background noise was astounding. It wasn't background anymore.

Noise has been on a considerable rise for most of the past century thanks to manufacturing and the transporting of goods and people.

Some noise is purposely created to attract and alter our thoughts for the purpose of selling to us. TV commercials for example. Many of us realize this and do not like it very much at all. Others are unconcerned and let it seep in to find a position within their minds.

But most of us can't just pack up and move to a small country town or lakeside cottage for peace and tranquility. We have work to do, families to raise, and a consumer regimen to follow that is programmed into us from childhood.

Possibly there are things we can do to alleviate the noise intake like relocating home or job, altering traffic routes, muting commercials or shutting off the TV altogether. One thing we can do is to become more aware of noise and its effects on our well being, and then taking the steps towards achieving a prefered calmer lifestyle.

Definitions and causes
Noise pollution (or environmental noise) is displeasing human-, animal- or machine-created sound that disrupts the activity or balance of human or animal life. A common form of noise pollution is from transportation, principally motor vehicles. The word noise comes from the Latin word nausea meaning seasickness.

The source of most noise worldwide is transportation systems, motor vehicle noise, but also including aircraft noise and rail noise. Poor urban planning may give rise to noise pollution, since side-by-side industrial and residential buildings can result in noise pollution in the residential area.

Other sources are car alarms, emergency service sirens, office equipment, factory machinery, construction work, groundskeeping equipment, barking dogs, appliances, power tools, lighting hum, audio entertainment systems, loudspeakers and noisy people.
Read more on noise pollution at Wikipedia.

The World Health Organization on the effects of noise:
Noise seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities at school, at work, at home and during leisure time. Traffic noise alone is harming today the health of almost every third European. The main health risks of noise identified by WHO are:
  • pain and hearing fatigue;
  • hearing impairment including tinnitus;
  • annoyance;
  • interferences with social behaviour (aggressiveness, protest and helplessness);
  • interference with speech communication;
  • sleep disturbance and all its consequences on a long and short term basis;
  • cardiovascular effects;
  • hormonal responses (stress hormones) and their possible consequences on human metabolism (nutrition) and immune system;
  • performance at work and school.
The programme on noise and health at ECEH Bonn reviews the evidence on main health effects of noise and identifies the needs of specific vulnerable groups. Working in close co-operation with other WHO programmes ECEH Bonn develops indicators and guidelines for noise and health, analyses exposure-response relationships for different health effects and studies the long-term effects of night exposure to noise such as long-term sleep disturbance and cardiovascular problems.

Escape if you will: "There is however, a true music of nature - the song of the birds, the whisper of leaves, the ripple of waters upon a sandy shore, the wail of wind or sea." - John Lubbock (1834-1913).

And if you can't get there then dream of it, listen to soft music, or just relax in a quiet spot.

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