The Alarming Effects of Noise Pollution

Updated on January 31, 2018
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As the human population constantly grows and technology gradually develops, environmental damage to the planet is expected as an unfortunate side-effect of human activity. Currently, the magnitude of the damage has been truly alarming.Tons of different types of waste are being accumulated and improperly discarded every day. Pollution has deeply affected numerous parts of the world. Some of the most common types of pollution include oil spills, smog, and deforestation. These are only a few examples of how the environment is being destroyed around the globe. Many forms of water, air, and land pollution have been negatively impacting the planet for years. However, in addition to the aforementioned forms of pollution, the lesser-known auditory threat of noise pollution has manifested and increased throughout the years.

A child covering her ears due to noisy surroundings.
A child covering her ears due to noisy surroundings. | Source

What Is Noise?

Noise comes from many sources. It can come from your neighbor's baby crying loudly in the middle of the night, your cellphone ringing during a class discussion, or a person shouting. The sounds that are produced by these sources are considered to be noises. But what exactly is noise?

Per definition, noise is simply an unwanted sound that is irritating and has a high volume that interferes with relaxation and communication. The definition is not limited to people and also includes sounds produced by animals and machines. Obviously, noises can be heard in crowded areas such as offices and busy streets. They can also occur as a result of loud activities.

Noise Levels
Noise Levels | Source

How Does Noise Impact Human Health and How Are Noise Levels Regulated?

Surprisingly, noise levels have been regulated. Noise is considered to be tolerable in less than 65 decibels (dB). On the other hand, 75 dB has been strictly implemented to be the official limit for sound industries and any sounds that surpass that level require protective measures to avoid potential health risks. Moreover, continuous exposure to a 95 dB sound, which is the sound produced by a moving train, could lead to several harmful effects on the human body.

The long and short term effects of exposure to noise have been subject to different studies globally. Naturally, urban dwellers are more affected by noise than rural dwellers because they are more prone to exposure. However, people living in rural areas are still prone to exposure to noise under different circumstances, such as living close to factories or working at jobs that expose them to noise. Though the levels of exposure to sound may vary, the impact on a person's health is usually the same. Exposure to sound pollution typically results in the following:

  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Stress
  • Permanent Hearing Loss
  • Sleep Disturbance
  • Hypertension and Heart Failure
  • Stroke
  • Aggravated Depression
  • Irritation and Annoyance
  • Behavioral Changes
  • Muscular Tension
  • Concentration Loss
  • Low Performance Levels

In rare cases, long exposure to higher decibels of noise will cause death.

Based on a published report for the World Health Organization (WHO) by Stockholm University in 1995, noise levels near dwellings should not exceed 55 dB in order to protect the majority of people from experiencing both mentally and physically negative side effects. Therefore, 50 dB should be the maximum sound level. Though the aforementioned limit represents the ideal level of noise, unavoidable exposure to higher levels of noise will remain commonplace in the developed world in the years to come. Naturally, noise-exposure standards may be set at progressively higher levels, but efforts will continue to be made to reduce them.

Noise Level Regulation Procedures

Road Traffic
Noise emission limits have been set for all new vehicles in order to reduce noise exposure. These limits have progressively lowered much of the car-produced noise pollution. Furthermore, most noise reduction efforts have improved car engines and new tire designs have also been implemented to reduce road noise.
Due to technological advancement, almost all of the machines used in construction produce less noise compared to the machines from previous years. Careful construction-planning, which includes a prior notice of the construction and environmental noise assessments that take the sort-term nature of most construction activities into account, has also taken effect.
Social Noise
Local authorities and activity planners cooperatively practice planning events in order to minimize the disturbance to residents and other non-participating individuals within the affected areas.
Due to the latest design innovations, modern high-speed trains create less noise than conventional trains. In addition to better train designs, it has also been recommended that railways should be placed underground to reduce the impact of noise exposure. Still, cautious planning of new routes and noise reduction procedures are needed to meet current environmental standards.
Normally, computer-generated noise exposure contours help indicate noise levels at any specific location within the vicinity of an airport. Computer modeling can also be used to evaluate the impact of changing noise levels.
Military Causes
Noises produced by guns and weaponry are unavoidable aspects of military activity. The use of weaponry and the accompanying noise levels can have a severe impact on the comfort and well-being of a community, therefore good public relations must be applied to minimize the adverse impact of military activity and presence in a community.

Sounds and noise are a natural part of life. Even though some of us might not notice it much, without it, we'd probably look like fools while trying our best to understand each other. Still, too much noise in our lives can have many negative consequences on our well-being. Let's appreciate sound and the role it plays in our lives while simultaneously acknowledging that noise pollution is a serious issue.


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