Noise Pollution Effects and Causes: What Can You Do?

Wherever we look around, we cannot help thinking about the huge problem of environmental pollution.

Even though some people do their best to keep things clean and be eco-conscious still there are those who simply don’t care a whit!

But, if we use our ears instead of eyes, could we still talk about pollution?

ABSOLUTELY!

Even though this is not a visible type of pollution, it is very present in all aspects of our lives, which is why we have to raise awareness on the subject.

My article here will try to give a better insight into this problem by defining it, listing the types, causes, and effect, along with some practical tips.

noise pollution effects

What is noise pollution?

If you’ve been with me and my posts, you have surely learned numerous definitions of noise, where does it come from and how to get rid of it, or at least minimize it.

However, even though we are aware of all the sounds, still we rarely think of them as pollution. We never think of it as something that may kill us, but…

When a person is exposed to prolonged or excessive noise, that is considered as a noise pollution.

static-noise-in-ears

Even though definition itself is rather simple, the nature of the problem is not. By that, I mean that we can generally describe or locate it but cannot always get rid of it.

That’s because the noise is related to the job which by nature is a loud one. On the other side, one would never think of music as pollution, but, on certain levels, it is very dangerous.

Types of noise pollution

There are really many different types of noise pollution, but based on their sources, you can divide them into the following:

  • Manmade noises
  • Environmental noises

Here are some basics on each type:

Manmade noises are mostly traffic and transportation-related sounds. Those would be sounds from city traffic, airports and subway terminals, construction sites, and similar.

This group also includes sound coming from household appliances. 

Believe it or not, even though we don’t think of it as pollution, music also belongs to this one.

man made noise

Environmental noises are those coming from loud thunderstorms or animals, for example, a dog barking.

Speaking in decibels, 60 is still the safe level that’s not considered harmful. That’s the sound of most conversation between people.

What about other things around us?

To start with manmade noises, vacuum cleaners are about 70 dB, whereas food processors can reach 80 to 90. Both of these are very loud, hence harmful.

Music which exceeds 100dB is considered as both loud and harmful. 15 minutes of such music on daily basis is more than enough to damage hearing.

As for environmental ones, moderate rainfall is about 50 dB (too low to be harmful). The thunder strike sometimes sounds similar to the sound of a gunshot but usually is not as harmful as gunshot sound can be.

Gunshot sound can reach up to 190 dB and can lead to instant hearing damage.

See more such examples of decibels in this colorful infographic.

decibel scale and noise level chart

Noise pollution causes

Like I mentioned, sometimes it’s hard to define sound like a harmful one if we are in the concert or on a wedding, and similar pleasant social events.

Sometimes we are simply not aware of problematic aspects of certain sounds around us. Here are the most common causes of noise pollution.

construction-site-noise
  • Poor urban planning is the most frequent problem in developing countries. The best examples where these disruptive sounds are present are congested houses, an insufficient number of parking places, large families sharing small living spaces and similar.
  • Industrialization is also responsible for this type of pollution. Big machines, generators, compressors, and numerous factory-related sounds, are just some of the noise-makers.
  • Transportation is also among “main suspects” as we inevitably spend lots of time in it. The number of vehicles is rapidly growing, whether it’s (under)ground or air transportation we are talking about.
  • Social events of all sorts, such as parties, weddings, even places of worship and markets are also occasions where noise pollution is at the very high level. Either for the purpose to attract attention or simply because they feel it should be like that, people tend to be very noisy in these situations. And, as I said, the whole absurd is in the fact that they would never think of it as harmful.
  • Household activities inevitably go hand in hand with numerous gadgets, appliances and so on. And all of them, no matter how contemporary make some sounds, which alone are not so dangerous, but all together can be problematic.
  • Construction activities of all sorts are ongoing processes wherever we look around, as the need for new buildings, bridges, and everything is increasing every day. All the equipment used here is extremely loud and consequently seriously harmful.
jackhammer-noise

Noise pollution effects

As expected, there are many negative effects on our health, as this pollution is present practically everywhere. All groups of people are affected- adults, children, and even fetuses.

Here are some of the most common problems:

  • Hearing loss or damaged hearing, as the most obvious one, can be permanent or temporary, depending on the type of pollution and the period of exposure. Long-term exposure to extremely loud noise, above 100 dB, can lead to irreparable damages and eventually the loss of hearing.
  • Stress, taking second place on my list is also an important problem. You have surely noticed how often people point out stress as the most common contemporary problem, (some even think of it as an illness). Noise can distract us from daily relaxation and the lack of peaceful and quiet moments during the day certainly leads to stress.
  • Sleep problems as a result of noise pollution can be divided into two categories. Short-term effects are mood changes, decreased cognitive abilities and sleepiness during the day. The most serious long-term effect is cardiovascular disease.
  • Reduced brainpower and cognitive functions are quite expected negative effects of exposure to loud sounds. Noise pollution leads to decreased ability to read, learn, think, solve problems etc.
  • Troubles in communication, such as misunderstanding and misinterpreting, are also expected when people who are trying to conversate are in a loud place.

As you can see, the negative effects extend to every aspect of our health.

hearing-loss

Animals and noise pollutions

However, it’s not only us people who have numerous problems caused by sound pollution. Animals are also affected by this.

Some of the most common problems which are the result of exposure to loud sounds are:

  • Damaged or lost hearing
  • Behavioral issues (such as anxiety)
  • Decreased reproduction activity
  • Drop in egg/milk production
  • Development of lesions in the auditory processing system in cephalopods
  • Negative changes in vocalization in birds
  • Discomfort

It is more than obvious that noise affects all types of animals, wherever they live, and leads to serious problems.

dog-with-earmuffs

How to protect from noise pollution?

Even though you may think that it’s a “mission impossible” situation, still something can be done to improve the situation.

As I said, you cannot just turn the noise off, but you can do something to reduce it to some tolerable and less hazardous levels.

  • If you work in a noisy place, wear earplugs or muffs.
  • Check out the household appliances and their insulation.
  • Do not honk horns in your vehicle unless really necessary.
  • Roadside trees are excellent buffers for absorbing sounds - plant one for the better future!
  • Do your best to soundproof…well, everything you can think of!
soundproof blankets

Final Word : On Noise Pollution Causes and Effects

Even when the pollution doesn’t seem so harmful, sometimes consequences are far-reaching. The adverse effects on overall environmental health can be very severe, both for humans and animals.

Now that you know all about noise pollution and its effects, do your best to contribute to decreasing it. Raise awareness among people around you.

When every one of us does a little, a lot will be done in a wider perspective.

If you have some useful thoughts on noise pollution effects, don’t hesitate to share it with us.