Noise pollution is a problem for our feelings of general wellbeing. When there is consistent noise in a locale, we can feel frustrated, on edge, and even angry at the conditions. Particularly for those who expect to have a quiet environment, the presence of noise can feel like a loss of control, and psychologists warn that feeling a sense of control over our own bodies and lives is an important component to mental health. In addition to these problems for wellbeing, noise pollution can cause problems for physical health, as well.
When we are subjected to noise in our environments, particularly at home, our bodies can be affected in serious ways. Some of these mechanisms have to do with the increased mental stress of noise pollution, while others are caused by direct physiological effects. Let’s look at some causes of noise pollution in our neighborhoods, as well as what we can do to make a change.
Causes of Noise Pollution
As opposed to some other types of pollution that are based on standardized measurements, noise pollution is a moving target. Those who expect to live in a quiet area can experience noise pollution when construction takes place, for instance. Even when the sound of construction is not as loud as the decibel level of a city block, where there is no noise pollution, the deviation from residents’ expectations can lead to profound consequences. For this reason, the causes of noise pollution are as varied as the neighborhoods where they occur.
Some of the most common causes are transportation sound. Whether it is the sound of traffic on a highway, airplanes taking off and landing at an airport, or a train passing by, the sound of transportation can cross the threshold to noise pollution for a person who lives nearby that hub. Closely related to transportation noise is construction noise, including the maintenance of these pathways. Building construction can be noisy enough to cause pollution, as well. Landscaping can cause noise pollution, particularly when multiple lawnmowers are used at once. One of the lesser-known causes of noise pollution is the presence of the giant windmills on wind farms. Those who live nearby these sites sometimes hear a low-frequency hum that comes and goes in intensity. Under windy circumstances, that noise can be enough to cross the threshold to become pollution. One of the forms of noise pollution that is easiest to control is leisure or recreational noise. Music venues, dance clubs, bars, and restaurants can create neighborhood noise, particularly in the night hours when residents are sleeping, but standards can be put in place to limit the decibel levels of these locales, as well as to prevent that noise from spilling into the street.
Dealing with Noise Pollution
The remedies for noise pollution are twofold. On the individual level, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and to help manage the effects of neighborhood noise. Using rugs and textiles in your home can help muffle the sound of noise pollution, and you can re-insulate your home if you find that the walls are too thin. You can also provide other forms of soundproofing, including noise-protection walls in your garden or yard. You can also wear hearing protection when you suspect that the decibel level is causing anxiety or discomfort, even if it does not cross the threshold to threatening hearing damage.
At the level of public policy, you can communicate with the people who have the power to change your circumstances, as well. If you have a business or organization causing recreational noise nearby, you can talk to your local policymakers to see if standards can be put in place or enforced. Some forms of noise are more difficult to control than others, and transportation noise tends to be difficult to control. Sound retaining walls nearby highways can help to block that sound from getting to residential neighborhoods, so talk to your policymakers about the possibility of constructing these features.
Finally, if you find that individuals are causing noise pollution through parties or music events, take the opportunity to have a respectful conversation. Sometimes all that is needed to make a change is to ask!
If you are concerned about your hearing abilities and exposure to noise, it is important to take a hearing test! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.