Noise Pollution – the psychological damage
Noise pollution is “a modern plague,” declared Louis Hagler, MD, and Lisa Goines in a 2007 Southern Medical Journal paper that summarized dozens of scientific studies. “Our society is beset by noise, which is intrusive, pervasive, and ubiquitous; most important of all, it is unhealthy.”
I live in a leafy suburban area about 30 minutes outside of London. You’d think it would be quiet but I don’t think I have had one day of solitude since moving here eighteen months ago. There is an airport nearby and small aeroplanes fly over regularly. I was suntanning in the garden last week and counted around five planes flying past every half hour and that was on a weekday.
Then there’s the ‘rumble’ from the motorway. It takes around fifteen minutes to reach the motorway by car but the rumble travels far. There is a train station in the opposite direction and although I rarely hear the trains, I hear the loud hoot/warning given by the train drivers every now and then.
By far, the most common noise though is from garden equipment, lawn mowers and neighbour’s renovating their homes. In the recession, it seems less people are selling their homes and more are renovating and improving what they already have..building extensions and the like.
Noise doesn’t need to be loud to do damage. “Even ear-safe sound levels can cause nonauditory health effects, according to Wolfgang Babisch, PhD, a scientist with the German Federal Environmental Agency. As Babisch explained in a January 2005 editorial in Environmental Health Perspectives, noise affects sleep, fetal development, and the psyche. He cited a study revealing that schoolchildren exposed to high levels of aircraft noise suffer impairment in reading and memory. Goines and Hagler found that the elderly and those with depression are also particularly sensitive to noise pollution.
Given the general din of the modern world, the rest of us might be tempted to rationalize noise—to dismiss it as something we can simply get used to. But the research suggests that this is a risky approach. We process noise subconsciously as a danger signal that triggers a fight-or-flight response in our sympathetic nervous system. So even if we manage to tune it out or sleep through it, noise works insidiously, raising our blood pressure and heart rate, and causing hormonal changes with potentially far-reaching consequences, including anxiety, stress, nervousness, nausea, headaches, sexual impotence, mood swings, and neuroses.
Biologists recognize that for animals, quiet is critical—prey need to hear the approach of predators, predators need to be able to hear the movement of their prey, and songbirds need to be heard to attract mates and ensure their survival as species.
Be mindful of the appliances you buy and how noisy they will be when operating.
Double pane your windows to block noise out.
Buy noise cancelling headphones. Apparently there are ones on the marketing that neutralise outside noise.Bose offer “Quiet Comfort” headphones that cancel out noise. My goodness, this is what the world is coming to – we have to buy noise cancelling headphones to find silence…I bought a CD the other day with sounds of the sea on it…everything seems to be provided by artificial means and I wonder about the long term implications of this…
Find time to meditate to quieten ‘inner’ noise.
Take regular time out in nature – lakes and parks.
People may be better equipped than animals to survive the noise we generate, but the loss of natural quiet would be a catastrophe for the human soul.
It seems obvious to me, that one day in the future, the homes that will reach astronomical sales prices will be the ones where you can seek solitude. Those rural homes where it’s easy to hear the birds and wildlife and there’s less machinery in operation. A tranquil place where we are able to truly quieten our minds and allow silence to heal us.
Photo by MondoPhoto