Mitigate the health impacts of noise pollution

Noise pollution, especially in urban environments, is increasingly recognized around the world as a serious problem impacting our health. In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that urban noise poses a risk to public health and well-being.

Various research studies have presented evidence showing that prolonged exposure to noise can be linked to several short- and long-term health problems – both physiological and psychological. It is useful to remember that the ear evolved in an acoustic environment that had nothing to do with the one in which we live today.

The WHO analyzed environmental noise from planes, trains and vehicles, as well as other urban sources, then looked at links to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, sleep disorders, tinnitus, cognitive impairment in children and embarrassment.

The most obvious is interrupted sleep, with its sequential effects of fatigue, diminished memory and creativity, impaired judgment, and weakened psychomotor skills.

A worrying finding from the WHO study is that at least one million years of healthy life are lost each year in Europe alone due to noise pollution (this does not include noise from industrial workplaces).

There’s no denying that noise pollution has a serious impact on cognitive performance and quality of life.

Cognitive performance and quality of life

Good cognition is essential for work and school performance. Excessive noise interrupts concentration, memory and speech recognition, which can reduce work quality, performance and productivity. There is a growing body of evidence that shows how noise pollution affects academic ability and learning outcomes and even leads to lower standardized test scores.

Noise pollution is also clearly linked to psychological stress reactions and discomfort. In general, people with normal hearing function find loud noises uncomfortable. Thus, regular exposure to excess noise in a living space can have a significant negative impact on day-to-day quality of life.

Although 95% of Australians admit they “feel affected” by the continuous bombardment of noise in their homes, less than half realize the significant impact noise pollution has on their well-being. Whether it’s traffic and construction outside on the street, appliances and electronics at home, or even flight paths crossing overhead, a 2018 Sony Sounds study reveals how difficult it is to get away from noise pollution.

With the increase in urban population and changes in urban development, it will only get worse.

With that in mind, it’s important to take a break whenever you can.

Tahnee Schulz, a mindfulness expert and psychologist who worked with Sony on the sound study, says: “In the hustle and bustle of modern life, where we are constantly overstimulated by natural and man-made sounds, it is more important than ever so that we are aware of the noise pollution epidemic and the effects it can have on us physically and mentally.

Schulz suggests that all Australians should “take proactive steps” to find some peace and quiet in their lives throughout the day.

Acoustic Stores and Curtains is a supplier of effective noise reduction products for all kinds of “urban” noise.

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