Midwesterners rarely have to deal with smoggy skylines the way residents on the east and west coasts do, but that doesn’t mean we are immune to pollution. Some types are invisible but can still cause harm. The World Health Organization (WHO) is attempting to raise awareness of noise pollution, a serious global threat that can have widespread consequences.
What is Noise Pollution?
According to WHO, noise pollution is defined as “regular exposure to elevated sound levels that may lead to adverse effects on humans and other living organisms.” 85 decibels (dB) is widely considered to be the threshold for safe noise exposure; anything exceeding this can lead to irreversible hearing damage. The louder the sound, the less safe exposure time you have; at 85 dB you are okay for about eight hours, but at 100 dB, hearing loss can occur in as little as 15 minutes.
Because noise pollution is invisible, it is hard to detect. We become so used to routine background noise that we tend to not even notice it after a while. There are many sources of noise pollution in everyday life: traffic, barking dogs, construction, lawn mowers, airports, manufacturing facilities, industrial sounds, televisions, music – even common household appliances. It’s unlikely any of these will cause instantaneous damage, but the cumulative effects of a lifetime of exposure to these and other sounds is a factor in the gradual destruction of the nerve cells in your cochlea that are responsible for hearing. Once they are destroyed, they cannot be repaired.
The Negative Effects of Noise Pollution
Hearing loss isn’t the only concern of noise pollution. The WHO calls it a significant social and economic threat worldwide. Exposure to noise is associated with many problems, including:
- Hearing loss
- Poor sleep
- Cardiovascular dysfunction
- Child development
- Psychological dysfunction
Avoiding all sources of noise pollution is impossible in today’s fast-paced world, but a few preventative strategies can help lessen its effects on your overall health. Incorporate the following strategies into your life whenever possible:
- Wear earplugs any time you are exposed to noise levels exceeding 85 dB.
- Use headphones wisely: set the volume level at 60 percent of maximum and take frequent breaks to give your ears a rest.
- Avoid jobs that regularly expose you to hazardous noise levels.
- Choose a residential area far from heavy traffic or noisy industrial areas.
For more tips on protecting your health from noise pollution, talk to your audiologist today.