Excess Noise: Bad for Your Mind and Body

Patrick and Nancy bought a seaside flat in Scotland. They were hoping for a peaceful retirement. Last year, builders began repair work on the ferry terminal across from their home. Unfortunately, the work could only be done at low tide.

"They would start at 10:00 p.m. and go on for 6 hours," recalls Patrick. "The next night, they would start an hour later. It would last another 6 hours. The noise was tremendous."

The workmen used old and noisy equipment. "It was stressful and we could not sleep," says Patrick. "Each night we would think, 'Is this going to start again tonight?'"

How Noise Affects You Mentally and Physically

It is worth shouting about unwanted noise. There are so many sources. It could be jack-hammering construction workers near your office. It could be your neighbor's 150-decibel sound system. Unwanted noise can lead to mental and physical suffering. In addition to hearing loss, excess noise has been linked to:

  • Stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Problems sleeping
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Learning problems in children

Even if we do not pay attention to excess noise, it can be bad for us. It can make the body release more stress hormones.

How to Combat Toxic Noise

Here are some steps to deal with excessive noise:

  • Workplace noise —If loud and lasting noise bothers you at work, speak up. Ask for a better working environment. See if you can move your workspace, if possible. If that does not work, try wearing ear plugs or using a noise reducing device. If all else fails, try to accept the work conditions or change jobs.
  • Neighborhood noise —If possible, move your bedroom or living room to the less noisy side of the house. Try double-paned windows. Even if you do not get complete silence, these actions give you a sense of control.
  • Noisy neighbors —Most people do not like to confront neighbors. They fear that saying something about noise may make the problem worse. To take some control, consider politely speaking to your neighbor. You could also write a polite letter to let the person know that there is a problem.
  • Legal action —If all else fails, you may need to take the legal action. Most cities have a department of environmental protection. They should deal with noise problems. They may come and measure the noise. If it is louder than allowed, they will issue a violation. If the problem is with a noisy neighbor, you may need to call the police.

RESOURCES:

American Psychological Association
http://www.apa.org
Center for Hearing and Communication
http://chchearing.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Academy of Audiology
https://canadianaudiology.ca

References:

Barbaresco GQ, Reis AVP, et al. Effects of environmental noise pollution on perceived stress and cortisol levels in street vendors. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2019;82(5):331-337.
Hyperacusis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hyperacusis. Accessed June 10, 2021.
Noise and hearing loss prevention. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise. Accessed June 10, 2021.
Noise pollution. US Environmental Protection Agency website. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/clean-air-act-title-iv-noise-pollution. Accessed June 10, 2021.
Too loud for too long. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/hearingloss/index.html. Accessed June 10, 2021.
Last reviewed June 10, 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/10/2021

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