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How to Fight Noise Pollution & Protect Your Hearing


Terri Ellert, HIS

Terri has been in practice as a Board-Certified Hearing Instrument Specialist for the past 11 years and is a co-founder of the Hearing Centers of Arizona.
Terri Ellert, HIS

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How to Fight Noise Pollution & Protect Your Hearing

If you can, take a moment from your day to close your eyes and focus on the sounds around you.  Depending on where you are, you will hear a very wide range of things.  If you are in a rural setting next to a babbling brook you may be lucky enough to hear the wind blowing, a horse nearby neighing and perhaps a tractor in the distance plowing a field. If you are in an urban environment the sounds of machinery, traffic, and conversation may likely be present and at times overwhelming. Sound is huge part of everyday life: for communication, for enjoyment or for alerting us to danger. In some situations, a sound can distract us, break our concentration or, if it’s very loud, harm us. When the sound becomes unwanted noise, it becomes noise pollution and it can negatively affect both our physical and mental health.

What is noise pollution?

Exposure to excessive noise can damage hearing. Harmful or annoying levels of noise are considered noise pollution. Loud sounds can damage sensitive structures of the inner ear and cause hearing loss. This makes conversation and other daily activities more difficult.  Some sources of loud noise that you may be exposed to include busy city traffic, industrial machinery such as leaf blowers, construction trucks and jack hammers. It can also manifest itself as things we choose to expose ourselves to such as recreational music players, concerts, and explosions like fireworks.

Dangers of noise pollution

A 2011 study by the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a study in Western Europe over a ten-year period analyzing environmental noise from planes, trains, cars and other urban noise. They investigated the correlation to these urban noises and health conditions such as cardiovascular disease; sleep disturbance, tinnitus, cognitive impairment in children, and annoyance.  They found that at least one million healthy years of life are lost each year in Europe alone due to noise pollution and this figure does not even include noise in an industrial workplace.  While noise pollution is a danger to us all, the level of traffic, construction and industrialization of our urban environments is only increasing as cities increasingly grow.

Noise pollution solutions

Here are some ways to minimize your exposure to daily noise.

Sound proof your space. There are a lot of things you can do to reduce the sound at home or workplace.

  • If you have hard floors, rugs will help to dampen sound.
  • Windows can be a real weak point in many homes. Installing better windows, sealing window frames, or hanging curtains can help reduce the sound coming from outside.
  • If you happen to have noisy neighbors on one side of you, put furniture or a big bookshelf against that wall. If you have laundry machines in a separate room, shut the door.

Cancel out noise. Some people like to create peaceful sounds around them. You can do this by hanging wind chimes, or running a small water feature. It may seem to contradict the initial cause of reducing noise because you’re creating more, but these things help mask the more unpleasant sounds that may otherwise stress you and interrupt your sleep.

Earplugs. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective. If nighttime noise keeps you awake, earplugs can help you sleep.

Reduction Techniques

Experts studying community noise highlight the need for controlling noise at the source. Unfortunately, communities that are quiet today could be intruded upon in the near future. It’s therefore important to focus on quieting communities overall, not just separating people from noise today. Unfortunately, the United States government terminated federal funding for the Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC) in 1982. As a result, they would no longer assist in efforts to curb noise pollution, despite the growing awareness in the 1970’s that noise was a dangerous pollutant.

An end to noise pollution

We have considered ways to make you and your home safe from noise pollution, even in an urban environment.  It is important to remember that the prevention of noise pollution depends on all of us. Be considerate of your neighbors and keep sounds down on the street and in your home.  If you feel you have been affected by noise pollution, we can help you at Hearing Centers of Arizona.

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