Environmental Noise Pollution – A Modern Plague That’s Destroying Our Health, And Also That Of The Planet.
Take a moment to listen to your surroundings, what are you able to hear? Maybe it’s the ambient sound of a busy cafe or the noise of a hectic work office. It might not seem loud, as these feel like regular background noises we hear every day. Over time, however, this constant exposure to high sound levels will have lasting, damaging effects on our hearing health.
Noise pollution is all around us. People living in cities are especially susceptible as they are regularly exposed to a cacophony of excessive sounds from sources like traffic, trains, construction work, and airports. All these threaten to our right to peace and quiet.
A recent New Yorker article suggests noise pollution is a candidate for the “next big public-health crisis”. Twelve per cent of the working population already experiences hearing difficulty in some capacity. Studies suggesting that constant long-term exposure to excessive noise puts you at a higher risk of depression, anxiety and insomnia.
Normal levels of conversation are around 65 decibels loud. Where sound levels are as high as 110 decibels, hearing loss can occur after only two minutes of exposure. Take for example a music concert, where sound levels can reach between 110 and 130 decibels. When this exposure occurs daily, we are causing lasting harm to our ears and our overall health is being affected.
The Deafening Problem Of Noise Pollution
Unlike many other injuries, hearing loss is irreparable. According to a report by The World Health Organisation on – The burden of disease from environmental noise. Loud noise is more than a nuisance, contributing to health risks like cardiovascular diseases, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and tinnitus.
Tinnitus (also known as a ringing in the ears) can occur from many factors. It is a symptom of what noise damage is doing to our hearing health. As these hearing issues have become more common, a range of treatments, from symptom-relieving supplements to sound therapies, are available. However, there is no cure for the problem of tinnitus, as of yet.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states – hearing loss is the 3rd most common physical condition affecting adults today. The problem is widespread. Noise pollution isn’t being addressed nearly as ambitiously as it should be.
Research also shows that noise pollution is also impacting children’s growth and learning development. In environments where excessive noise is often present, children show lower reading comprehension and logical reasoning skills. Opposed to peers who grow up in more natural sound environments.
Acoustic Pollution And Its Effects On Our Environment
As well as having a significant impact on human health, toxic noise levels are doing devastating damage to our ecosystems. Acoustic pollution in our oceans has dramatically increased in the past 50 years. Noise caused by cargo ships, military vessels, sonars and seismic tools, impedes communication and survival of sea life.
The steady drone of commercial shipping lanes is altering whale behaviour causing chronic stress. Studies show that whales are extremely sensitive to these high pitch frequencies. They will make frantic efforts to escape seismic air guns or navy sonar. Which has forced them to change their dive patterns, some resurface to quickly and die from decompression sickness.
In 2008 in Canada’s Baffin Bay, conducted underwater seismic testing. This noise confused and deferred the southward migration of narwhals. This delay in their migration left them trapped in sea ice. 1,000 narwhals died as a result.
Emerging new acoustic metamaterials and noise-cancelling technologies
If we could see noise pollution we would better understand how noise has become a top environmental hazard of modern-day. Noise pollution affects our physical, mental health and well-being.
Solving the environmental-noise problem has been difficult. Progress is being made as growing awareness and support for the right to silence persists. There are steps we can take now to combat excessive noise levels. Like looking at how we can better plan our cities to reduce noise levels, especially where the sound is significantly harmful
Foams, Rockwool and other soundproofing material aren’t up to the challenge modern-day noise presents. Investing in new technologies and higher quality sound damping materials is essential. Deep tech industries are looking for solutions to these problems with new noise absorbing material and metamaterials.
Sound Bounce is a responsive sound-absorbing metamaterial, developed in Ireland. Paving the way for higher quality, lightweight, and cost-effective solutions to blocking out harmful noise. The material instinctively responds to the noise environment, this unique property enables the superior absorption of sound. It can be tailored to react optimally at certain frequencies allowing SoundBounce to be custom built to tackle whatever noise challenge is presented.
Personal knowledge of what noise levels can cause harm will help an individual avoid unnecessary damage. Sound over 85 decibels will cause damage after lengthy exposure, this Includes lawnmowers, motorcycles, chainsaws, and personal music devices. Wearing hearing protection devices such as earplugs or earmuffs is essential.
If you think you might have hearing loss, get tested and treated as soon as possible. Hearing health is of high priority and can be irreversible once the damage has been done. The same may be true for the environment if we do not change our ways around noise very soon.