It may be a loud car horn, a truck’s exhaust system backfiring, or an airplane overheard giving off noise.
Also known as “noise pollution,” it’s something that affects millions of people daily from just being an annoyance to damaging their health.
Noise pollution occurs when unwanted sounds enter the environment. The potential health effects of noise pollution include increased stress levels, sleep disturbance, or hearing damage, and more.
The most common health problem is called Noise-Induced Hearing Loss or NIHL, and exposure to said loud noise can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep disturbances, and stress.
Any of these health issues can affect all age groups, even kids.
Noise build-up can also have a significant impact on humans, animals and it’s often overlooked as a health hazard.
According to the 2018 review people and animals, in general, are experiencing a rise in noise pollution because of increased activity in the environment.
More Health Concerns
Other ways noise can affect health include its impact on mental health such as adding anxiety or stress to one’s overall makeup.
People who experience noise pollution are often irritable, frustrated, or angry. If an individual feels they cannot control noise in their general surroundings, their mental health intensifies.
Environmental noise can also affect sleep and disturb someone by making sleep hard, difficulty staying asleep, and/or waking up too early.
Sounds can also affect the quality of sleep by changing the amount of rapid eye movement sleep, ultimately impacting a person’s mood and concentration.
The physical health effects of noise pollution can happen via direct or indirect exposure to noise.
In extreme cases, loud sounds can even result in hearing impairment. Some types of noise-induced hearing impairment include abnormal loudness perception and tinnitus, which causes a constant high-pitched ringing in the ears
According to the same 2018 review, short-term exposure to noise pollution can temporarily raise blood pressure and increase blood viscosity. Additionally, the study said there may be an association between long-term exposure to noise and higher rates of cardiovascular disease.
The authors write this could happen due to the impact of noise pollution on stress hormone levels and the nervous system. Over time, this stress may add to the development of disease.
Impact on children
According to the review, children are vulnerable to noise-induced hearing loss opening them up to more problems overall.
For instance, a 2014 study revealed chronic exposure to noise for 8 hours a day could cause permanent hearing changes in children, including being unable to hear some frequencies.
For example, children who live by noisy airports or streets can suffer from stress and other problems, including impairments in memory, attention span, and reading skills.
And unwanted, or loud noise at school or home may make it hard for children to learn. This could affect a child’s behavior, their ability to create relationships and break their confidence. Kids too can develop high blood pressure due to chronic exposure to sound.
Wildlife is Affected
Adults and kids aren’t the only ones affected by noise pollution – it can also disturb the well-being and health of wildlife.
“Studies reveal loud noises cause caterpillars’ hearts to beat faster and bluebirds to have fewer chicks. Animals use sound for a variety of reasons, including to navigate, find food, attract mates, and avoid predators. Noise pollution makes it difficult for them to accomplish these tasks, which affects their ability to survive,” according to this article in the National Geographic.
Noise pollution is also causing problems for those creatures who make their homes in the ocean. Things like ships, oil drills, sonar devices, and seismic tests have taken their toll on the marine environment, according to the Neo Geo article.
“Whales and dolphins are particularly impacted by noise pollution. These marine mammals rely on echolocation to communicate, navigate, feed, and find mates, and excess noise interferes with their ability to effectively echolocate,” the article adds.
If noise pollution affects a person’s hearing or mental health and trying to keep noise at bay on your own isn’t working, speaking with a doctor may help.
Depending on how noise impacts a child or an adult, consulting with a hearing or sleep specialist, or a therapist to help with coping skills could help in the long run.