Research assures that the main source of noise is traffic. Horns, engines and the very rolling of wheels on the roads. Does this noise affect health?
The truth is that it does. From the metabolic changes in the cells that receive the acoustic stimulus to the psychological complications due to the discomfort that the shrill and persistent sound causes in the state of mind. This has surely happened to you if you live in the city. There comes a time when you ask it to stop for a moment.
The health effects of noise are not insignificant. And although it’s a contamination that few people report and measure, it’s still a pollution, with all that implies. That’s why in today’s article, we want to talk about noises and how it can affect our health. Interested in learning more? Keep reading!
Early Hearing Loss
The National Health Institutes of the United States stipulates that frequent exposure to certain decibels leads to the destruction of several cells responsible for hearing. These cells are over-stimulated to the point of changing their metabolism. This results in a deficiency in their ability to translate signals.
The structures most damaged by external noise are those that detect high frequency sounds. And it is observed that affected patients suffer earlier hearing loss for these tones.
High frequency sounds are the ones we make during a conversation. Therefore, we can say that one of the health effects of noise is the interruption of communication with other human beings. And not only because of the high volume of the sound source, but also because we lose our hearing before time.
The worst thing is that these cells that change their metabolism can die. And if they die, they do not regenerate. Therefore, their loss must be considered permanent.
Noise and Stress
It is hardly news that noise stresses us. The persistence of annoying sounds makes us restless, puts us in a bad mood and prevents us from concentrating on activities that require mental effort.
Among the health effects of noise, we should not lose sight of neuroinflammation. According to a 2016 survey, there are cases of hearing loss that may be related to chronic inflammation of the nerve pathways that carry sound information from the ear to the brain.
This neuroinflammation directly affects cognitive abilities and mood. It is normal to feel irritated or nervous after being exposed to a high decibel source for a large part of the day.
But the issue doesn’t end there. Noise also affects sleep. And if we don’t sleep well, all the more reason to stress ourselves out.
Noise can disrupt the rapid eye movement phase of sleep. This phase is essential for humans to fix memories, retrieve knowledge from the day and process information that was gathered during the previous day. A deficiency in this resting phase triggers problems with amnesia, learning disabilities, headaches and even predisposes to obesity.
It is clear that noise has a strong impact on mental health. And from there, we move on to specific neurological effects. For example, in the workplace. In offices with high decibels, employees are less productive, lose focus faster and have a harder time memorizing their tasks.
So when you add poor work performance to insufficient rest and irritability that you can’t pinpoint a cause for, it makes sense to feel stressed. And since stress increases the risk of cardiovascular accidents, the body suffers as well as the mind.
The Effects of Noise on Children’s Health
Children are not immune to the effects of noise. They too suffer from it and can be affected physically and mentally, just like adults.
It is therefore imperative to regulate the intensity of sounds in schools, recreational areas, at home and when using headphones with electronic devices for children. Indian researchers have found that no stage of growth is exempt from this problem.
Hearing loss at an early age, even to a small degree, is likely to impair educational development. Little ones may move from class to class in elementary school without realizing that their hearing is diminished and explanations are lost.
It will also make them less able to concentrate. And perhaps less able to communicate with their peers and with adults.
The next step is behavior modification. Many students are unable to stay in their seats in class or do their homework because they can’t fully grasp what is going on.
What Can We Do to Protect Ourselves from the Effects of Noise?
Some simple measures can help us to suffer less from the health effects of noise. We cannot completely eliminate exposure, as there are factors beyond our control. But these suggestions may help eliminate some of the stress and prolong the vitality of hearing:
- Turn down the volume: This seems like an obvious recommendation, but if we don’t turn down the volume of the devices we use daily, there will be no way to counteract the noise. This applies to large speakers and headphones.
- Turn off appliances: there are appliances that have noise that we make every day. While we can’t turn off the refrigerator, for example, we can turn off the air conditioning from time to time or avoid turning it on if there are other methods to cool us down. We could add here, depending on the budget, the value of changing those old products that make too much noise due to wear and tear.
- Use protections: hearing protections are indicated in certain professional tasks. But it is also possible to use them inside the house if we live in apartments that have a window overlooking the street.
- Create a soundproof environment: There are modifications to the home that aim to reduce the noise that enters the house. Some are expensive, but others not so much. Some examples include double glazing, soundproof carpets, soundproofing and soundproofing wall sconces.
The method itself is not as important as considering hearing and mental health in making the changes. At home, at work or at school, most of the time, these are decisions that can be made to start protecting yourself from noise today. What are your thoughts on noises? Let us know in the comments below.