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What Is Noise Pollution? Causes and Effects

Muhammad Rafiq is a freelance writer, blogger, and translator with a master's degree in English literature from the University of Malakand.


What Is Noise Pollution?

Noise pollution, also known as environmental noise or sound pollution, is the propagation of noise with harmful effects on the quality of life of humans and animals. Noise pollution is often caused by man-made sources, such as transportation, construction, and manufacturing. It can also be caused by natural sources, such as wind, rain, and animals.

It is around us all the time, and we’re exposed to it at almost every moment of the day. It comes from everywhere, and we have no control over it. Our homes, factories, schools, hospitals, businesses, airplanes, cars, and trains all produce noise.

According to the World Health Organization:

  • Exposure to sound that's louder than 70 decibels can cause hearing loss over time.
  • Exposure to sound that's 75 decibels or higher can cause other health problems, including increased risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
  • Long-term exposure to 85 decibels or more, the noise level at a rock concert, can lead to high blood pressure, heart palpitations, and even heart attacks.

Types of Noise Pollution

There are two types of noise pollution that can be harmful to our health:

1. Man-Made Noise

It is produced by machines, vehicles, and other sources that emit loud sounds. This can be extremely harmful to human health, causing hearing loss, anxiety, and other health problems. In some cases, noise pollution can even be fatal.

2. Natural Noise

It is produced by sources such as animals, weather, and natural disasters. Although it's not usually harmful to human health, it can cause annoyance and disruption. In some cases, natural noise pollution can also lead to negative psychological effects, such as anxiety and stress.

In order to minimize the impact of natural noise pollution, it is important to be aware of the potential sources and take steps to avoid them when possible.

What is Chronic Noise Exposure?

Chronic noise exposure is a type of hearing loss that can occur when you are exposed to loud noise over an extended period of time. This can happen if you work in a noisy environment or if you are frequently exposed to loud music. Chronic noise exposure can damage the delicate structures of the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss.

In some cases, chronic noise exposure can also cause tinnitus, which is a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears. If you think you may be suffering from chronic noise exposure, it is important to see a doctor or audiologist for a hearing test.


What is Acute Noise Exposure?

Acute noise exposure is a type of hearing loss that can occur after just a single exposure to a loud noise. It is usually temporary, but in some cases, it can be permanent. Symptoms include ringing in the ears (tinnitus), pain, and dizziness.

If you experience any of these symptoms after exposure to a loud noise, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. With prompt treatment, the majority of cases can be resolved without any long-term effects.

Causes of Noise Pollution

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

  1. Transportation
  2. Industrialization
  3. Construction Works
  4. Recreational Activities

1. Transportation

Transportation is a major cause of noise pollution. Vehicles such as cars, trucks, buses, and trains create noise when they are in operation. This can be a particular problem in densely populated areas where there is a lot of traffic.

The noise from these vehicles can cause disruptions to everyday life. The noise from transport vehicles is caused by the engine and road noise, ventilation, brakes, and other components.

People living in noisy areas often complain of headaches, earaches, tiredness, irritability, and other symptoms. These symptoms can be caused by long-term exposure to noise pollution, which can have serious health consequences.

Transport vehicles also create a lot of fuel emissions and toxic exhaust emissions such as nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide. These emissions can contribute to global warming.

There are a few things that can be done to help reduce the noise from vehicles. One is to make sure that they are properly maintained so that they are operating as quietly as possible. Another is to use quieter types of vehicles when possible. Finally, routing traffic away from areas where it would be disruptive can also help to reduce noise levels.


2. Industrialization

Industrial noise is a significant source of noise pollution. Factories and other industrial facilities produce large amounts of noise that can be disruptive and harmful to both workers and nearby residents. In some cases, it can even cause hearing loss.

In addition to causing annoyance and discomfort, industrial noise can also have negative impacts on mental health, leading to increased stress and anxiety levels.

With the goal of reducing noise pollution, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published guidelines for workplaces where noise is a health and safety concern. These guidelines address workplace noise exposure, prevention, and control.

NIOSH offers a variety of resources to help workers, employers, and community groups reduce noise exposure, including fact sheets on noise—including common sources of noise such as power tools, diesel engines, and motorcycles—and tips for reducing noise in the workplace.

NIOSH also offers guidance for reducing noise in homes, schools, and communities, including tips for reducing noise from cars, lawn mowers, and other common sources.


3. Construction Works

Construction work is a major source of noise pollution in many urban areas. The noise from construction equipment, such as jackhammers and bulldozers, can be extremely loud and disruptive. It can also cause stress and anxiety, and can be a major nuisance for nearby residents.

In some cases, construction noise can even be dangerous, as it can interfere with emergency services communications.

Construction site safety is a serious concern. There are over 150,000 construction site-related accidents each year, many of which result in serious personal injuries. Construction site noise can negatively impact sleep, interfere with communication between workers and contractors, block cellphone reception, and interfere with people's concentration.

Construction workers understand how noise and stress can affect their productivity. Contractors and site superintendents are well aware of the importance of keeping workers safe and their costs down. They would like to be able to specify that construction equipment should be equipped with noise-reduction technology, but have not had an easy time doing so.

The Noise Reduction Rating, or NRR, is the standard measure of how much noise a sound-attenuating product can reduce. It is important to note that the NRR is only an estimate of the product's noise-reducing capabilities, and real-world results may vary. Nonetheless, the NRR is a useful tool for comparing different sound-attenuating products.


4. Recreational Activities

Our ears are bombarded with sounds every day. Our phones and headphones are buzzing with notifications, the dishwasher is running, and your neighbour’s kids are playing outside.

But have you ever considered the sounds other people are making for fun? What about those parties that go on until 3:00 am? Or the concerts or club nights that start late and go on past midnight? When some of us go out for dinner and drinks, we hear live music, loud conversation, and noise from large groups.

Though we might not consider it, our recreational activities can be a source of noise pollution. For example, playing music loudly at a party or gathering can disturb others in the vicinity and lead to complaints. In some cases, this can even result in legal action being taken.

To avoid this, it's important to be mindful of the noise level when engaging in recreational activities and to take steps to reduce it if necessary. This can help to create a more pleasant environment for everyone and prevent any potential conflict.

What is Recreational Noise Pollution?

Recreational noise pollution is any noise that disrupts the peace and quiet of an area, preventing people from enjoying the natural sounds of their surroundings. This can include things like music from a car stereo, or a group of people talking loudly. Recreational noise pollution can be annoying and disruptive, and it can also have negative effects on people’s health.


Effects of Noise Pollution on Humans

Human life has been greatly affected by the adverse effects of noise pollution. The incessant droning sound from airplanes, cars, motorcycles, construction, and passing trains causes hearing loss in humans. This also causes stress, depression, insomnia, and irritability.

Noise pollution is not natural to suburban and urban environments, but it has become common with the increasing impact of industrialization and urbanization. The noise coming from factories, construction sites, and shopping centers disturbs the sleep of residents who live near these areas. The noise disrupts the circadian cycle of birds and other wild animals.

Noise pollution also affects humans in a negative way. Noise pollution blocks the speech of humans, making it difficult for them to understand one another. It disrupts the communications between animals and human beings. For example, the din from traffic makes it difficult for birds to communicate with one another over long distances. Following are the common adverse effects of noise pollution on humans:

1. Hearing Loss

The first and most obvious adverse effect is the loss of hearing. This is a serious problem because once hearing is gone, it cannot be recovered. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 1.1 billion young people worldwide are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to loud noise, including music they listen to through personal audio devices.

This is a startling statistic, and it underscores the need for everyone to be aware of the dangers of noise pollution.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 24% of adults in the United States have noise-induced hearing loss at workplace.

There are a few things that can be done to reduce the risk of hearing loss due to listening to loud music:

  1. Young people should be aware of the risks of listening to loud music and take steps to protect their hearing. This may include using earplugs or limiting the amount of time spent listening to loud music.
  2. Parents and other adults should model good listening habits for young people. This means avoiding listening to loud music for extended periods of time, and making sure to take breaks in between.
  3. Policymakers should consider enacting laws or regulations to protect people's hearing, such as requiring employers to provide hearing protection for workers.

2. Tinnitus

The second effect of noise pollution is tinnitus, a condition that causes ringing or buzzing in the ears. Tinnitus can be a nuisance and can interfere with everyday activities. In some cases, it can even lead to depression and anxiety.

There is no cure for tinnitus, but there are treatments that can help relieve some of the symptoms. Ringing in the ears can be brought on by exposure to noise, listening to loud music, and certain drugs.

Tinnitus can be either subtle or very noticeable. The ringing or buzzing can be constant or intermittent, and may be constant or only temporary. In some cases, it can be masked by outside noises, making it difficult to pinpoint the source. Tinnitus can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life, and can be difficult to manage.

There are a variety of treatment options available, and it is important to work with a healthcare professional to find the best approach for each individual.

3. Stress

Another effect of noise pollution is stress. Though it may seem like a small thing, exposure to noise pollution can cause a great deal of stress. This is because the noise itself can be overwhelming and cause the body to release stress hormones.

These hormones can lead to a variety of problems, including high blood pressure, trouble sleeping, and even anxiety and depression. In addition, it can also make it difficult to concentrate, which can further add to stress levels.

One of the best ways to combat stress is to try to avoid noise pollution whenever possible. If you live in a noisy area, try to find ways to reduce the amount of noise you're exposed to. This may mean wearing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones when you're outside, or investing in double-paned windows to reduce the amount of noise that comes into your home.

In addition to reducing your exposure to noise pollution, there are a number of other things you can do to combat stress. Exercise and meditation are both great ways to relax your body and mind, and spending time with friends and family can also help reduce stress levels.


4. Sleep Disturbances

Many people don’t realize just how disruptive noise pollution can be. For many of them, it’s only a noise that temporarily disturbs them, or that they just spend their days trying to ignore. But these disturbances can cause more problems than just annoyance. It can affect your sleep quality, and your ability to think straight. In some cases, it can even cause stress.

A study conducted by the National Liberary of Medicine found that exposure to noise pollution can lead to a variety of health problems, including sleep disturbance.

There are many potential sources of noise that can disturb our sleep. Some of the most common include street traffic, loud neighbors, and barking dogs. This noise can not only impact our ability to fall asleep, but also our ability to stay asleep throughout the night.

The consequences of sleep disturbance can be significant. Poor sleep can lead to fatigue, irritability, and decreased productivity. In extreme cases, it can even contribute to serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

There are a number of ways to improve your sleep quality. Creating a relaxing bedtime routine, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, and maintaining a regular sleep schedule are all good habits to develop. If you find that you're still struggling to get a good night's sleep, talk to your doctor about other options, such as medication or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I).


5. Concentration Problems

Another effect of noise pollution is the lack of concentration and ability to pay attention. This can lead to decreased productivity at work or school, and can even affect your ability to enjoy leisure activities.

The Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran found that mental workload and visual/auditory attention is significantly lower when people are exposed to noise at 95 dBA level. The research suggests that exposure to noise can have a negative effect on cognitive performance.

The findings of the study are particularly relevant in today's fast-paced, noisy world, where we are constantly bombarded with stimuli from electronic devices, traffic, and other sources. The findings could have implications for the workplace, where exposure to noise is often unavoidable.

Noise pollution can cause anxiety and depression. If you find yourself regularly feeling stressed or agitated due to noise pollution, it is important to seek help from a professional.


6. High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a detrimental effect of noise pollution. It is not only a threat to one's physical health, but also has the potential to lead to mental health problems. In fact, studies have shown that exposure to loud noise can increase blood pressure and heart rate, and can also cause stress, anxiety, and sleep problems.

All of these effects can contribute to serious health problems over time. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the potential risks of noise pollution and to take steps to protect yourself from its harmful effects.

Impact on Animals

Animals can often hear a noise or sounds that we can’t, and this creates problems for them. The sounds of people, motorcycles, airplanes, trains, cars, and lawnmowers are all around us. And this noise pollution is not just a nuisance; it is a serious threat to many wild species.

For instance, one study found that male rats developed behavioral changes when they were exposed to noise. Another study found that sudden noise above 105 decibels has the potential to decrease milk production in cows at the next milking.

While the effects of noise on milk production are not well understood, it is thought that the stress caused by loud noise may interfere with the normal release of hormones needed for milk production.

In addition, noise may cause cows to become agitated, which can lead to reduced milk production. While more research is needed to better understand the effects of noise on milk production, it is clear that loud noise can have a negative impact on dairy cows.

But noise pollution can have an even greater effect on wildlife. Studies have shown that it can interfere with the feeding, breeding, and communication of many animals.

As human populations continue to grow and urban areas expand, noise pollution is becoming an increasingly serious problem. We must take steps to reduce the amount of noise we're creating, in order to protect the wildlife that shares our planet.

How to Reduce Noise Pollution?

Noise pollution is a growing problem in today's world. With more and more people living in close proximity to each other, and more traffic on the roads, audio disturbance is becoming an increasingly difficult problem to ignore. Here are five ways that you can help to reduce noise pollution in your community:

  1. Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs can help you enjoy a quieter environment when you're out and about, or when noise levels are high indoors. By blocking out some of the noise around you, you can better focus on what you're doing, or relax and unwind in peace. If you're sensitive to noise, or simply want to enjoy a quieter lifestyle, investing in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones or earplugs can make a world of difference.
  2. One of the best ways to reduce external noise pollution is to make sure your home and workplace are well insulated. This will help to create a barrier between you and the noise, making it easier to concentrate and work in peace. There are a variety of insulation materials available on the market, so it is worth doing some research to find the best option for your needs. Once you have installed insulation, you will notice a significant reduction in the amount of noise that penetrates your home or workplace.
  3. Make sure that all appliances and machinery in your office or workspace are in good working order and well-maintained. Not only will this help to reduce the amount of noise they produce, but it will also improve their overall efficiency.
  4. If you must use loud equipment, try to do so during times when it will not disturb others. If possible, use headphones or earplugs to minimize the impact of the noise on those around you. Remember that some people are more sensitive to noise than others, so be considerate of your colleagues and neighbors.
  5. Educate yourself and others about the effects of noise pollution. Excessive noise can lead to a number of health problems, including hearing loss, tinnitus, and even cardiovascular disease. It is important to be aware of the dangers of noise pollution and take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from its harmful effects.


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This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Muhammad Rafiq