Noise pollution affects you and those around you in a wide variety ways, even some that you may not have noticed! One of the most known health impacts is on hearing. Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is very likely in areas with high levels of noise pollution, especially in areas with construction sites, air traffic, and road traffic. NIHL can make communicating, learning, and responding to emergencies difficult, as well as cause ear pain.
In addition to causing hearing loss, noise pollution can result in an increased risk of heart disease and complications, diabetes, and stress. You can also lose precious sleep due to noise pollution! The loud noises of airplanes or cars at night can prevent you from getting the full 8-10 hours of sleep that your body needs. This sleep deprivation causes increases in stress hormone and oxidative stress levels, both of which increase the risk of vascular dysfunction, high blood pressure, and overall heart disease. These symptoms also increase the risk for diabetes as stress hormones alter metabolism patterns and could cause insulin resistance. Noise pollution can also affect pregnancy and birth. Long-term exposure can make the fetus too small for their age (stage of pregnancy) and decrease their birth weight. This occurs because noise pollution can disrupt sleep and once again increase stress. An increase in stress hormones can affect fetal growth, as well as lack of sleep (or adequate sleep).
Aside from health effects, noise pollution can negatively affect productivity and focus. Children who live or attend school in noisy areas have been found to suffer from stress, as well as impairments in memory, attention level and reading skills. People also experience increased irritability due to noise pollution. You can imagine how hard it is to focus when there is a jackhammer constantly being used at the construction site outside your window.
Unfortunately, the health effects of noise pollution are disproportionately experienced by people of color and people who have low income. Oftentimes the source of noise pollution is not caused by these populations themselves. The high levels of noise frequently stem from construction companies and traffic that come into their neighborhoods more frequently than they do privileged neighborhoods. The best way to prevent these noise pollution effects is to get rid of the noise pollution, which starts with identifying the source. Identifying and diminishing the source evidently requires addressing inequities of these sources of noise pollution. The Noise app can help you identify these sources and be more aware of what kinds of noises are affecting you and your health.