What are the effects of noise on health?

Noise disturbs us. It changes our metabolism and stresses us. What can we do to reduce its effects on health?

Last update: 15 March, 2022

The Health and Environment Observatory of Andalusia (OSMAN) ensures that the main source of noise is traffic. The horns, the motors and the very rolling of the wheels on the roads. Does this noise have any effects on health?

The truth is that if. From metabolic changes in the cells responsible for receiving the acoustic stimulus to psychological complications due to the discomfort that the shrill and persistent sound causes in the state of mind. It has surely happened to you if you live in a city. There comes a time when you ask it to stop for a moment.

The effects of noise on health are not negligible. And although it is a contamination that few report and measure, it is still pollution, with what that entails.

early hearing loss

The National Health Institutes of the United States make it clear that frequent exposure to certain decibels kills the destruction of several cells responsible for hearing. These cells are overstimulated to the point of modifying their metabolism. The result is a deficiency in their ability to translate signals.

The structures most damaged by external noise are those that detect high-frequency sounds. And it is observed that affected patients suffer hearing loss earlier for those tones.

High-frequency tones are the ones we emit in a conversation. Therefore, we can say that one of the effects of noise on health is the interruption of communication with other human beings. And not only because of a high volume of the sound source, but because we lose our hearing before time.

The worst of the data is that these cells that change their metabolism can die. And if they die, they don’t regenerate. Therefore, their loss must be considered permanent.

It seems that today’s noise pollution accelerates hearing loss.

noise and stress

Almost no one is a novelty that noise stresses us. The persistence of annoying sounds disturbs usthey put us in a bad mood and do not let us concentrate on activities that require mental effort.

Among the effects of noise on health, we must not lose sight of the neuroinflammation. According to a 2016 investigation, there are cases of hearing impairment that could be linked to chronic inflammation of the nerve pathways that carry sound information from the ear to the brain.

This neuroinflammation It directly affects cognitive abilities and mood. It is normal to feel irritated or nervous after being exposed to a high decibel source for much of the day.

But the question does not end here. Noise also affects sleep. And if we are badly asleep, all the more reason we will stress.

Noise can alter the phase of rapid eye movements (REM, rapid eye movements for its acronym in English) of sleep. This phase is essential for the human being to fix memories, recover knowledge of the day and process the information that was collected during wakefulness. A deficiency in this stage of rest triggers amnesia problems, learning disorders, headaches and even predisposes to obesity.

It is clear that noise has a strong impact on mental health. And from there it goes to the specific neurological effects. For example, in the workplace. Offices with high decibels have lower productivity of their employees, who they lose concentration faster and memorize their tasks with difficulties.

So, if we add poor work performance with insufficient rest and irritability to which we do not know how to attribute a cause, it is logical to feel stressed. And stress increases the risk of cardiovascular events, so the physical suffers along with the mind.



The effects of noise on children’s health

Children are not immune to the effect of noise. They also suffer from it and can have physical and mental consequences, just like adults.

The importance of regulating the intensity of sounds in schools, in recreational places, at home and when using headphones with electronic devices is imperative for children. No stage of growth is exempt from suffering from the problemas researchers from India were able to verify.

Hearing loss at an early age, even to a small extent, is capable of altering educational development. Little ones can go from grade to grade in primary school without noticing that they hear less and that explanations are lost.

This will also make them less able to concentrate. And perhaps less able to communicate with their peers and with adults.

The next step is behavior alteration. Many students are unable to stay in their seats in class or on assignments because they cannot fully grasp what is happening.

Noises irritate us for neurological and psychological reasons. It affects our concentration and relationship with others.


What to do to protect yourself from the effects of noise?

Some simple measures can help us suffer less from the health effects of noise. We cannot completely eliminate exposure, as certain factors are beyond our control. But perhaps these suggestions will take some of the stress away and prolong the vitality of hearing:

  • Decrease the volume: It seems like an obvious recommendation, but if we don’t lower the volume of those devices that we use every day, there will be no way to counteract the noise. This applies to large speakers and headphones.
  • Turn off appliances: there are appliances that have a noise that we do everyday. Although we cannot turn off the refrigerator, for example, we can stop the air conditioning from time to time or avoid turning it on if there are other methods to cool us down. Here we could add, depending on the budget, value the change of those old products that make too much noise due to wear.
  • Employ protection: hearing protectors are indicated in certain work tasks. But it is also possible to use them inside the home if we live in apartments that have a window facing the street.
  • Create a noise-proof environment: there are housing changes that are intended to reduce noise from entering the house. Some are expensive, but others not so much. It is worth mentioning the double glazing, anti-noise mats, acoustic insulation and sound-absorbing wall sconces.

In itself, the method is not as important as the fact of considering hearing and mental health to make the changes. At home, at work or in school, most of the time it is about decisions that can be made to start protecting ourselves from noise today.

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