Dealing with Noise Pollution in your Neighborhood

Dealing with Noise Pollution in your Neighborhood

Noise is part of everyday life. From the time we wake up to engaging activities through the day – we are exposed to various types and volumes of noise. Did you know that exposure to hazardous noise levels can cause hearing loss? Noise is actually a common cause of hearing loss, one time or regular exposure to excessive noise can permanently damage the auditory system – the sensory system for hearing. We encounter sources of noise pollution in everyday environments including in our neighborhood. Being aware of these sources and ways to mitigate their impact on your hearing can significantly protect your hearing health and wellness. 

What is noise pollution?

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) estimates that 30 million people in the U.S. are exposed to dangerous levels of noise on a regular basis. This includes places like your neighborhood where there are sources of noise pollution. Noise pollution is environmental noise that exceeds safe noise levels. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), noise pollution is noise that exceeds 65 decibels (dB) – this is equivalent to a vacuum cleaner for context. Regular exposure to noise at this level can potentially be harmful for hearing health. 

There are everyday sources of noise pollution that reaches and exceeds 65dB including: 

  1. Traffic: this includes sounds of sirens, car horns, loud engines, etc. which can reach close to and even exceed 85dB. Other forms of noisy transportation that can also be hazardous include trains as well as airplanes. 
  2. Construction sites: a common characteristic of cities is construction work. You may regularly pass by a construction site and this type of work –  paving new roads, repair work, building structures etc. can produce noise anywhere from 110dB to 120dB. 
  3. Night life: another source of noise pollution includes social settings like bustling restaurants, bars, clubs etc. These environments are common sources of loud noise exposure,  producing more than 100dB of noise. 

Regular exposure to excessive noise can affect hearing. These sources of noise pollution can take a toll not just on hearing health but also wellness. It is important to take some time to identify the noise pollution in your neighborhood. 

What is the impact of noise pollution?

Noise pollution can have various effects. You may even be familiar with some of the ways noise pollution can impact you. This includes the following: 

  • Fatigue: noise pollution means more sound that the brain has to filter through and process. This can make it tougher to hear the sounds you want to hear. The brain expands greater resources and energy to hear and leads to fatigue and feeling drained. 
  • Tinnitus: this symptom is the experience of hearing a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears that only you can hear. This can be intermittent to more constant which can affect hearing, sleep, concentration etc. 
  • Poor sleep: noise pollution can also take a toll on sleep. You may struggle with initiating and/or managing quality sleep. This leads to fatigue, irritability, grogginess, inability to focus etc. 
  • Hearing loss: one time or consistent exposure to loud noise can permanently damage hearing. It can desensitize the sensory cells in the inner ear which play an integral role in how sound is processed. This damage reduces their capacity to effectively process soundwaves which results in the brain receiving less auditory information and the causes noise induced hearing loss. 

Noise pollution can also contribute to or worsen stress, symptoms of other health conditions, mood swings etc. It is important to practice safety measures to mitigate the impact of noise pollution on your everyday health, hearing, and wellness. 

How can you protect your hearing health?

Noise induced hearing loss is completely preventable. There are several ways you can protect your hearing health including: 

  1. Wear hearing protection: this includes headphones, earbuds, and earmuffs which provide the ears with a physical barrier. This reduces the amount of loud noise you absorb. 
  2. Reduce exposure: there are several ways you can reduce your exposure to loud noise including maintaining low volume settings on electronic devices, taking alternate routes to avoid construction sites or other environments with loud noise, driving with the windows rolled up to reduce environmental noise etc. 
  3. Test hearing: integrating a hearing test in annual health check-ins is a great way to track your hearing health. This allows you to identify any changes you may experience over time, supporting early intervention. 

Practicing these strategies can reduce the impact of noise pollution, supporting your hearing health and wellness.