harmful noiseIf you’ve ever flown on an airplane and, after hours of the rushing white noise, felt relief when you finally experienced silence or lived or worked along a railroad track or near an airport, then you know that environmental noise is distracting and tiring.

When we’re stressed, we often look to manage such things as events that are occurring in our life, conflict in relationships or sleep problems.  However, it’s easy to overlook how our environment impacts our stress levels and our health.  Noise pollution is one aspect of daily life that is often overlooked, but significantly contribute to your stress levels.

According to this month’s Monitor on Psychology and a new report from the World Health Organization and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, noise pollution can be deadly.

What is noise pollution:

Noise pollution is environmental noise from humans, animals or machines, that is distracting, irritating and disrupts the activity or balance of human life.

Causes of noise pollution

There are many potential causes of noise pollution.  Some of the most common causes include:

  • Airplane traffic
  • Blaring car horns
  • Elevated trains
  • Hospitals
  • Entertainment noise

Health Effects of Noise Pollution

  • Stress.  Gary Evans, Ph.D., a professor of human ecology at Cornell University, suggests that children exposed to airplane noise traffic develop a stress response of ignoring noise, including speech.
  • Lower reading comprehension scores in children.  Several studies have found that children who hear airplane or train noise in their classrooms were as much as a year behind students in the same school who were in classrooms no exposed to train noise. (Environment and Behavior, Vol 7, No. 4).
  • Higher levels of stress hormones
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Higher incidence of fatal heart attacks
  • Hearing impairments

Reducing noise pollution is challenging for many reasons.  In hospitals, for example, it is difficult to install noise absorbing materials like carpeting because they are not easily cleaned.  Recently materials have been developed that are noise absorbing and limit the possibility of infection.

Photo by Dennis Yang, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.</small>