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Noise Pollution: How Bad is it, How Bad Could it Get, What are the Effects?

Noise, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is any sound that "lacks agreeable musical quality or is noticeably unpleasant" or "is undesired or interferes with one's hearing of something." When this noise stems from your environment, such as traffic, airplanes or a booming car radio, it's known as noise pollution.

These days, unless you live in a very isolated area, it's hard to escape noise pollution. It comes from many sources that are all around us, including these below:

Common Sources of Noise Pollution

  • Street traffic

  • Construction

  • Industry and agriculture

  • Aircraft

  • Railroads

  • Recreational vehicles (snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles)

  • Appliances (garbage disposals, blenders, vacuum cleaners)

  • Guns, hunting rifles

  • Tools and devices for home use (lawnmowers, snow blowers, chainsaws, power tools)

  • Music (personal stereos, car stereos, rock concerts, nightclubs)

  • Sirens

  • Humans (yelling, cheering crowds, dropping items)

When Noise Becomes Dangerous

Some 65 million Americans are exposed to noise levels that can get in the way of their work and sleep.

Everyone, no matter what your age, is at risk from noise pollution, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Most obviously is the risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which can occur when you are exposed to too much loud noise over a period of time.

The NIDCD says that 30 million people are at risk of NIHL right now in their homes, workplace and recreational settings, and 10 million Americans already have permanently damaged hearing as a result. Noise related hearing loss is also the most common work-related disease.

But there are other, less obvious, noise risks too. In fact, a study published in the June 4 issue of the British journal The Lancet found that children exposed to high levels of aircraft noise suffered from impairments in their reading ability. Specifically, a 5-decibel (dB) increase in aircraft noise delayed reading age in children by up to two months. Kids exposed to both aircraft and traffic noise also appeared to have increases in stress and a reduced quality of life.

Noise pollution can be a major source of stress for adults too, leading not only to stress-related diseases but also to sleepless nights, aggression and irritability. According to Eddie Chandler, a stress management specialist, " ... Sounds can literally make you sick. Noise pollution can increase your stress levels and create severe tension in your daily life. It can increase your heart rate, raise your blood pressure and even result in insomnia."

If noise pollution is a source of tension in your life, we highly recommend you give The Pure Relaxation CD a try. It combines guided meditations with music to calm your mind, soothe your emotions and create a state of deep relaxation in your body. It's a great way to cover up unwanted noise from your environment while giving your body lasting emotional relief from noise-related, or any type of, stress.

How Much Noise is Too Much?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established 70 dB as a safe average for a 24-hour day. Your hearing may be damaged by any noise that reaches 85 dB or more, but even a softer noise could harm your health if it is bothersome to your nerves or prevents you from sleeping (a typical person can't sleep with a noise at 45 dB or higher). To put things into perspective, here's a list of some common noise measurements:

  • Quiet home: 20 dB

  • Normal talking: 40 dB

  • Ringing telephone: 60 dB

  • Check out the tips below if you want to make your environment more quiet.

  • Air conditioner: 75 dB

  • Heavy traffic: 90 dB

  • Subway train, honking horns, jack hammers: About 100 dB

  • Typical nightclub: 110 dB

  • Ears register pain: 120 dB

  • Loud music, jet take-off: About 120 dB

Those most at risk of noise-induced hearing loss are workers exposed to loud noise for long periods of time, five or more days a week. This could include factory workers, construction workers, farmers, police officers, firefighters, military personnel and musicians, among others.

However, stress from low levels of noise is a risk to most everyone, especially those in urban settings. In the United States, though, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find areas NOT affected by noise pollution. Even rural areas that were once relatively quiet are now affected by aircraft, agriculture, traffic and more.

To get an idea of just how wide-reaching noise pollution is, consider that the National Institutes of Health says that some 65 million Americans are exposed to noise levels that can get in the way of work and sleep, and 25 million people are at risk of noise-related health problems.

Tips for Creating a Noise-Free (or Close to It) Environment,
and Protecting Yourself From Noisy Ones

  • Wear earplugs in noisy places

  • Turn down the volume on radios, personal headsets and TVs

  • Try muting your TV during the commercials, or leaving it off all together and reading a book instead

  • Relieve Noise-Related Stress with The Pure Relaxation CD: Guided Meditations for Body, Mind & Spirit

    The Pure Relaxation CDThis is the #1 relaxation CD on the market today ... at an incredible price!

    The Pure Relaxation CD will calm your mind, soothe your emotions and create a state of deep relaxation in your body. Using these guided meditations regularly will help you to live in a more relaxed way. You will notice when you are becoming tense and start to relax spontaneously.

    You will be amazed with how, by regularly listening to the CD, it has a powerful ability to help you relax and deal more effectively with stress throughout the day, every day.

    "You are creating an oasis in a very noisy, busy world!"
    -- Pat Foth, Retired Pet Store Owner, MI

    Order The Pure Relaxation CD Now and For a Limited Time: GET FREE Shipping Anywhere in the World!

  • Sound-treat your home by putting heavy curtains on windows, rugs on the floors and sealing all air leaks

  • Consider adding acoustical tile to your ceilings and walls

  • Put on some light music to buffer outside noise that you can't control

  • Use sound-blocking headphones to listen to music/TV without the disturbance of outside noises, and without disturbing those around you

  • Look for quieter home appliances

  • Take a drive in a rural area to escape city noise for a day

Recommended Reading

Warning: Certain Smells May Make You a Dangerous Driver (Really!)

The Top Seven Signs That Someone is Lying to You


National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

Medline Plus: Aircraft Noise can Impair Reading in Kids June 3, 2005

Dealing With Noise Pollution

The Council on the Environment of New York City: Noise Pollution

Right to Quiet Society

Noise Pollution

MSN Encarta: Noise Pollution

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