We’ve all experienced the overwhelming feeling of utter annoyance after being jolted awake at 8 a.m. by the unabating sounds of a construction worker drilling away at the pavement outside or the drone of a lawnmower next door.
From the loud hustle and bustle of traffic in a congested city to the blare of an airplane flying overhead, noise has become an incessant part of our everyday lives–but it is affecting the world’s inhabitants in more ways than we can imagine.
Throughout the United States, millions of people are suffering from health problems that are directly linked to man-made noise pollution. The World Health Organization (WHO) addressed this correlation between noise exposure and health problems and ranked noise pollution as the second leading environmental cause of health issues. Long-term exposure to sounds that are over 85 decibels are generally considered harmful and could potentially affect a person’s wellbeing–and just to put this into perspective, heavy traffic falls right into this category!
According to the WHO, health problems resulting from prolonged noise exposure can be categorized into seven groups–affecting such things as hearing, speech, sleep patterns, cardiovascular health, mental health, cognitive development, and behavior.
Although noise pollution isn’t solely responsible for these health issues, try these simple methods to reduce the amount of noise you’re exposed to.
- Meditate – Meditating for just 20 minutes each day can help reduce stress and high blood pressure–two health problems noise pollution is known to cause. Find a nice, quiet spot in your home or outside and focus on the silence of your surroundings. Even if you are new to the art of meditation, there are three simple meditation techniques that you can follow for guidance.
- Minimize Noise Levels – Simply put, lower the volume on the television or when you are listening to music. If you have hardwood or tile floors, placing rugs or mats around your home can also help to absorb sound. If you work in an occupation that requires you to frequently be around high noise levels, such as a construction worker or a baggage handler at an airport, be sure to wear earplugs to protect your ears.
- Spend Time in Silence – Thankfully, research has proven that silence can repair your body in a number of ways. In order to partake in these health benefits, try to set aside two hours each day and spend them in complete silence. Spend time completely disconnected from technology–do a crossword puzzle, read a book, or paint a picture. In addition to meditation, try other relaxation techniques such as yoga, mindful breathing, or taking a walk in the park.
Increasing your risk of heart disease isn’t the only harm noise pollution can cause–noise pollution is also affecting wildlife and their ability to successfully function by disrupting their auditory senses thus decreasing their chances of survival.
The ability to hear what’s occurring in their surroundings is incredibly important to animals because it enables them to thrive in their respective environments. Most species depend on sound in order to communicate with others and to locate potential mates. Animals also rely on sound so that they can forage for food and so that they can avoid predators. Noise pollution greatly interferes with an animal’s ability to complete these tasks–increasing their chances of death and threatening biodiversity.
As noise pollution encroaches upon wildlife and their ability to hear the natural world, many animals are forced to adapt by modifying their behaviors or by relocating to new areas. Wildlife is also not immune to the harmful effects that prolonged noise exposure can have on health and many animals suffer from anxiety, loss of hearing, and increased heart rates as a result.
Although noise pollution is a global issue, there are things that you can do to reduce it.
- Plant More Trees – Trees and shrubs are an exceptional method for buffering sound around your home and can effectively reduce noise levels by up to 15 decibels. This is also a great way to create a sound barrier between communities and outlying areas where wild animals may live.
- Bike to Work – If possible, choose biking over driving when going to work or when running errands. In doing so you will not only remove yourself from the harmful noise levels prevalent on highways but you will also greatly reduce your production of them. If you must drive, be sure your car is in working order and is serviced regularly so that it does not make any unnecessary sounds.
- Educate Others – Bring your community together and create initiatives that work to reduce noise pollution in your area. Make sure that others are aware of the dangers that noisy theatrics at concerts and events (such as fireworks and loud speakers) can have. Whether it be starting a petition to have noise barriers placed around busy highways in your city or contacting your local and state officials regarding noise regulations–make your voice heard!
Have you tried any of these methods to reduce noise pollution around you?
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