Noise Pollution: A Look At The Causes and Impact It Has On Our Lives

Apart from atmospheric pollution, there are a few other types of pollution that have harmful effects on living things on our planet, and that includes noise. In fact, according to the WHO (World Health Organization), noise is amongst the most hazardous environmental threats to our health. And according to the EEA (European Environment Agency), it’s responsible for over 72,000 hospitalisations and 16,600 premature deaths in Europe alone each year.

According to the World Health Organization, noise becomes detrimental to health when it exceeds 75 dB (decibels) and feels painful when it exceeds 120 dB.

From planes flying in the sky to construction workers operating heavy and noisy machinery to drivers honking their horns to loud sound systems, noise pollution is something that’s become an unavoidable nuisance. Cities and urban centres have become the lodestone of a type of pollution referred to as acoustic pollution, which, despite its inconspicuousness and the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic considerably reduced it until we almost yearned for it, is quite harmful to human health. As earlier mentioned, acoustic pollution is responsible for over 16,000 deaths and 72,000 hospitalizations in Europe alone annually.

Not only is noise pollution harmful to humans but also to animals. According to America’s NPS (National Park Service), acoustic pollution has a huge impact on the environment and causes serious health damage to animals living in the wild. According to experts, noise pollution interferes with rearing and breeding cycles and is even causing some animals to go extinct much faster.

What’s Noise Pollution?

Not all sounds are considered noise or acoustic pollution. According to the WHO, noise is any sound that exceeds 65 dB. However, noise starts to become harmful when it goes past 75 dB and painful when it exceeds 120 dB. The organization recommends that noise levels stay below 65 decibels during the day and specifies that restful sleep can only be achieved when nighttime ambient noise levels are below 30 decibels. If you are having trouble with noise pollution in surrounding buildings, I would recommend getting in touch with an acoustic consultant.

What Causes Noise Pollution?

Noise pollution can be caused by many things with the main ones being:

Traffic

Noise caused by traffic accounts for most of the noise pollution in cities and urban cities. For instance, a bus horn produces 100 decibels while that in a car produces about 90 decibels.

Air Traffic

While the number of aircraft flying over towns and cities is fewer than the number of cars on the roads, the impact air traffic has on the environment is far greater considering that aircraft produce over 130 decibels or more.

Construction Sites

Car Park and building construction and pavement and road resurfacing works are extremely noisy. For instance, a single pneumatic drill can produce up to 110 decibels.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Terraces, bars, and restaurants with outdoor spaces and functions like concerts can produce over 100 decibels for prolonged periods.

Animals

While animal noises mostly go unnoticed, it’s worth noting that a barking or howling dog can produce anywhere between 60-80 decibels, which is quite loud.

The Effects of Noise Pollution

Apart from damaging hearing by causing issues such as deafness or tinnitus, constant loud noise can damage your health in more ways than one and can be especially harmful to the very old and very young. Here are some of the effects noise pollution can have on your health:

Physical Effects

Headache, high blood pressure, racing pulse, and respiratory agitation. Constant and extremely loud noise may also cause colitis, gastritis, and in some cases, heart attacks.

Psychological Effects

Excessive noise can lead to fatigue, stress, hysteria, anxiety, and depression in both animals and humans.

Behavioural and Sleep Disorders

Noise above 45 decibels can keep you from sleeping properly or even falling asleep. As mentioned earlier, the WHO recommends ambient noise levels of 30 decibels or below for one to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep! Loud noises also affect our behaviour and may cause irritability and aggressive behaviour.

Concentration and Memory

Noise can also affect your ability to focus, causing your performance to dip. It’s also not good for your memory as it makes it harder to concentrate and retain information.

Author: Transen