Take a moment and think about how much background noise accompanies you throughout the day. Many Americans find themselves surrounded by noise for most of their waking hours. We listen to music while driving, we surround ourselves with keyboard typing, phone calls and background chatter throughout our work day, and then we come home and turn on the TV for the rest of the evening.
Noise pollution can be defined as any obtrusive sound that distracts or disturbs us from our daily tasks and functioning. Primary noise pollution disturbances include vehicle traffic, airplane noise and sounds around the home such as leaf blowers and loud fans. Although these sounds may be annoying to us, they also can have substantial impacts on our health.
Noise pollution most substantially affects our stress levels; in fact, certain levels of noise pollution can lead to chronic stress. These high levels of stress over a lengthy amount of time can result in sleep disturbances, increased anxiety, high blood pressure and even heart disease. Chronic stress also lowers our body’s immune system, making us more susceptible to colds and illness. Finally, studies have shown that children exposed to high levels of noise throughout their childhood have delayed language skills, cognitive development and increased anxiety.
As much as we may feel uncomfortable with prolonged silence, try eliminating some of the noise pollution you can directly control. Turn off your TV in the evenings and read a book instead. Try going for a jog without listening to music, or go to sleep with earplugs in place. By reducing the levels of sound in your environment, you may just improve your health and wellness too!