Latest posts by Mark Rahman, BC-HIS (see all)
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A screaming child, TV blaring in the living room, a vacuum cleaner, loud music coming from your teen’s bedroom: a busy home can be a source of constant noise. Once you step outside, there’s even more noise pollution. On an average day, you may hear your neighbor’s lawn mower, honking cars, sirens, maybe even ear-shattering sounds of a construction or a work site – a saw, a drill, a jackhammer.
Our modern world can be a very noisy world. Unless you live in a very quiet rural area, you are no stranger to the phenomenon of environmental noise, commonly called noise pollution.
Noise pollution is often referred to as the “modern unseen plague” for good reason. It may be unseen but certainly not unheard! Besides leading to hearing loss, it impacts our physical and mental health in more ways than one.
The just released WHO Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region provide strong evidence that noise is one of the top environmental hazards to both physical and mental health and well-being in the European Region. Officially launched to countries in Basel, Switzerland in October of 2018, the document identifies levels at which noise has significant health impacts and recommends actions to reduce exposure. The guidelines recommend outdoor noise levels that should not be exceeded for aircraft, road and rail noise and two new sources: wind turbine and leisure noise. The aim of the guidelines is to recommend environmental noise exposure levels to protect human health from noise.
Major Sources of Noise Pollution
The EPA defines noise pollution as any unwanted or disturbing sound that reduces your quality of life or disrupts daily activities. Traffic, barking dogs, and loud music all qualify, but it’s how noise impacts us that really matters. We are surrounded by sounds. Most aren’t harmful, and many we just tune out, but noise can affect our health. Decibels (dB) measure sound intensity — the more intense the sound, the higher the decibel count. So what decibel is considered noise pollution? Long exposure at 85 dB is dangerous; at 120 dB, even short exposure can cause serious damage. Some examples to gage if your hearing is at risk includes:
Nearby Whispering; 30 dB
Refrigerator Humming; 40 dB
Air Conditioner; 60 dB
Lawn Mower; 80 dB to 85 dB
Approaching Train; 100 dB
Ambulance Siren; 120 dB
The Dangers of Excessive Noise
Noise health effects are the physical and psychological health consequences of regular exposure to consistent elevated sound levels. Elevated workplace or environmental noise can cause hearing impairment, tinnitus, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, annoyance, and sleep disturbance. Changes in the immune system and birth defects have been also attributed to noise exposure. Recent studies find that exposure to road traffic noise is associated with an increased risk of abdominal obesity and diabetes. Both these health outcomes could be a consequence of exposure to prolonged stress – as a result, for example, of chronic noise. They add to the understanding of how environmental noise affects the body. There is now strong evidence that road traffic noise exposure is associated with an increased risk of heart attack.
Although age-related health effects (presbycusis) occur naturally with age, in many countries the cumulative impact of noise is sufficient to impair the hearing of a large fraction of the population over the course of a lifetime. Noise exposure has been known to induce noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus, hypertension and other cardiovascular adverse effects. Chronic noise exposure has been associated with sleep disturbances and increased incidence of diabetes. Stress from time spent around elevated noise levels has been linked with increased workplace accident rates and aggression and other anti-social behaviors. The most significant sources are vehicles, aircraft, prolonged exposure to loud music, and industrial noise.
Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center
Although the new Environmental Noise Guidelines were prepared for Europe, they are suitable for worldwide use. If you think your hearing is at risk contact us at Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center. We can help you assess the risk to your hearing and help you build strategies to reduce the noise pollution in your life and protect your hearing into the future.