Noise pollution is generally defined as regular exposure to elevated sound levels that may lead to adverse effects in humans or other living organisms. According to the World Health Organization, sound levels less than 70 dB are not damaging to living organisms, regardless of how long or consistent the exposure is. Exposure for more than 8 hours to constant noise beyond 85 dB may be hazardous. If you work for 8 hours daily in close proximity to a busy road or highway, you are very likely exposed to traffic noise pollution around 85dB
Effects of Noise Pollution on Wildlife and Marine Life
Our oceans are no longer quiet. Thousands of oil drills, sonars, seismic survey devices, coastal recreational watercraft and shipping vessels are now populating our waters, and that is a serious cause of noise pollution for marine life. Whales are among the most affected, as their hearing helps them orient themselves, feed and communicate. Noise pollution thus interferes with cetaceans’ (whales and dolphins) feeding habits, reproductive patterns and migration routes, and can even cause hemorrhage and death.
Other than marine life, land animals are also affected by noise pollution in the form of traffic, firecrackers etc., and birds are especially affected by the increased air traffic.
Social and Economic Costs of Noise Pollution
The World Health Organization estimates that one out of three people in Europe is harmed by traffic noise. More than the purely medical effects of noise pollution on the individual, there is a significant social and economic impact. Since noise pollution leads to sleep disturbance, it affects the individual’s work performance during the day, it leads to hypertension and cardiovascular disease and costs the health system additional time and money, and it negatively affects school performance in children.
Various Causes of Noise Pollution
Most of the industries use big machines which are capable of producing a large amount of noise. Apart from that, various equipment like compressors, generators, exhaust fans, grinding mills also participates in producing big noise. Therefore, you must have seen workers in these factories and industries wearing earplugs to minimize the effect of noise.
2. Poor Urban Planning
In most of the developing countries, poor urban planning also plays a vital role. Congested houses, large families sharing small space, fight over parking, frequent fights over basic amenities leads to noise pollution which may disrupt the environment of society.
3. Social Events
Noise is at its peak in most of the social events. Whether it is marriage, parties, pub, disc or place of worship, people normally flout rules set by the local administration and create nuisance in the area. People play songs on full volume and dance till midnight which makes the condition of people living nearby pretty worse. In markets, you can see people selling clothes via making a loud noise to attract the attention of people.
A large number of vehicles on roads, airplanes flying over houses, underground trains produce heavy noise and people get it difficult to get accustomed to that. The high noise leads to a situation wherein a normal person loses the ability to hear properly.
5. Construction Activities
Under construction activities like mining, construction of bridges, dams, buildings, stations, roads, flyovers takes place in almost every part of the world. These construction activities take place every day as we need more buildings, bridges to accommodate more people and to reduce traffic congestion. The down point is that these construction equipment are too noisy.
6. Household Chores
We people are surrounded by gadgets and use them extensively in our daily life. Gadgets like TV, mobile, mixer grinder, pressure cooker, vacuum cleaners, washing machine and dryer, cooler, air conditioners are minor contributors to the amount of noise that is produced but it affects the quality of life of your neighborhood in a bad way.
While this form of pollution may seem harmless, it, in fact, has far-reaching consequences. The adverse effects on the health of the environment are quite severe. Not only is the local wildlife affected by pollution but humans also face a number of problems due to it.
Effects of Noise Pollution
1. Hearing Problems
Any unwanted sound that our ears have not been built to filter can cause problems within the body. Our ears can take in a certain range of sounds without getting damaged. Man-made noises such as jackhammers, horns, machinery, airplanes and even vehicles can be too loud for our hearing range. Constant exposure to loud levels of noise can easily result in the damage of our eardrums and loss of hearing. It also reduces our sensitivity to sounds that our ears pick up unconsciously to regulate our body’s rhythm.
2. Health Issues
Excessive noise pollution in working areas such as offices, construction sites, bars and even in our homes can influence psychological health. Studies show that the occurrence of aggressive behavior, disturbance of sleep, constant stress, fatigue, and hypertension can be linked to excessive noise levels. These, in turn, can cause more severe and chronic health issues later in life.
3. Sleeping Disorders
Loud noise can certainly hamper your sleeping pattern and may lead to irritation and uncomfortable situations. Without a good night sleep, it may lead to problems related to fatigue and your performance may go down in the office as well as at home. It is therefore recommended to take a sound sleep to give your body proper rest.
4. Cardiovascular Issues
Blood pressure levels, cardiovascular disease, and stress-related heart problems are on the rise. Studies suggest that high-intensity noise causes high blood pressure and increases heartbeat rate as it disrupts the normal blood flow. Bringing them to a manageable level depends on our understanding of noise pollution and how we tackle it.
5. Trouble Communicating
High decibel noise can put trouble and may not allow two people to communicate freely. This may lead to misunderstanding and you may get difficult understanding the other person. Constant sharp noise can give you a severe headache and disturb your emotional balance.
6. Effect on Wildlife
Wildlife faces far more problems than humans because of noise pollution since they are more dependent on sound. Animals develop a better sense of hearing than us since their survival depends on it. The ill effects of excessive noise begin at home. Pets react more aggressively in households where there is a constant noise.
They become disoriented more easily and face many behavioral problems. In nature, animals may suffer from hearing loss, which makes them easy prey and leads to dwindling populations. Others become inefficient at hunting, disturbing the balance of the eco-system.
Species that depend on mating calls to reproduce are often unable to hear these calls due to excessive man-made noise. As a result, they are unable to reproduce and cause declining populations. Others require sound waves to echolocate and find their way when migrating. Disturbing their sound signals means they get lost easily and do not migrate when they should. To cope up with the increasing sound around them, animals are becoming louder, which may further add to the pollution levels. This is why understanding noise pollution can help us lower the impact it has on the environment.
As of now, there do not exist many solutions to reduce sound pollution. On a personal level, everybody can help to reduce the noise in their homes by lowering the volume of the radio, music system and the television. Listening to music without headphones is also a good step forward. Removal of public loudspeakers is another way in which pollution can be countered.
As is controlling the sound levels in clubs, bars, parties, and discos. Better urban planning can help in creating ‘No-Noise’ zones, where honking and industrial noise are not tolerated. It is only when our understanding of noise pollution is complete, can we take steps to eradicate it completely.