The Effects of Noise Pollution on Your Health
Noise pollution does more than distract or annoy you, according to recent studies. Research in the U.K. and by national parks in the U.S. reveal sound pollution is affecting your health, as well as the well-being of wild animals. Find out more about how and why too much noise affects your health below.
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How Noise Pollution Affects Your Health
Health effects of noise pollution include both your mental and physical health:
- Higher risk for hospitalization. A U.K. team studied the impacts of sound pollution on residents near London’s Heathrow airport. They found that high levels of aircraft noise — which exceed more than 100 decibels — cause an increased risk of being admitted to the hospital, as well as dying from a stroke, cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease.
- Decrease in memory and reading comprehension. Noise pollution also affects children, causing lower scores in reading comprehension and memory. In fact, one study found that a child’s reading age was delayed by two months for every five-decibel increase in aircraft noise exposure.
- Growth in stroke and heart attack rates. A 15-year U.K. study discovered deaths from heart attacks increased when the sound was louder and heard over a longer period. Researchers also found that just a 10-decibel increase in aircraft noise raised blood pressure, heart attack and stroke rates by 7 to 17%. That’s a substantial amount and can have a significant impact on your long-term health.
- Greater chance of noise annoyance. Irritation from noise pollution varies and is dependent on your personality, character and existing mental health. You may feel like it’s a nuisance, while a neighbor may view it as an invasion of privacy. Those with mental health conditions are at a higher risk for developing noise annoyance.
Noise pollution also impacts animals, and not just from road or air traffic. A study conducted across 400 sites in the U.S. found that more than a fifth of protected land had an extra 10 decibels of human noise, which can cause animals to miss key sounds, like an approaching predator.
How Noise Pollution Affects You
It’s clear how sound pollution affects animals — it interrupts their way of life and inhibits their natural instincts. But how is noise pollution affecting our health, specifically our cardiovascular system?
Researchers have a few theories:
- Noise exposure increases stress levels. Because sound pollution raises stress levels, it makes your body become physiologically aroused, meaning your heart rate and blood pressure increases due to your stress. This reaction contributes to key risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, like high blood pressure, and can later lead to a heart attack or stroke due to your body’s constant reaction to noise pollution.
- Sound pollution causes distractions. Researchers believe children’s reading comprehension and memory scores drop in response to noise because it’s distracting and makes it difficult for them to focus. Scientists are still exploring this area and may find a new explanation through additional research.
- Noise pollution disrupts sleep patterns. Noise doesn’t have to wake you up to affect your quality of sleep. Just by hearing road or air traffic, your body’s breathing, heart rate and body movements are affected. Repeated nights of interrupted sleep wear your body out, making you prone to becoming sick.
Noise pollution concerns are universal among the scientists studying its impact on animals and humans. For people, noise prevention is possible through ear plugs and soundproofing — which may be a more comfortable method for your ears. Avoiding vacation spots like Maho Beach is another way to avoid noise pollution.
Where to Learn More About Noise Pollution
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