Noise Pollution: It Harms Your Health and Hearing
Noise pollution isn’t good. It interferes with our ability to hear sounds of higher “quality,” though quality is in the ear of the beholder. Listening to a 6-year-old screech her way through “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” on a pint-sized violin might be ear agony to most, but to mom and dad, it’s music to their ears.
So, we all define noise differently, but we can agree on two basic facts. First, noise is unwanted (at least by some) and second; we live in a sea of sounds. Noise is all around us and there’s no escaping. When the wind blows, it makes a sound. And, if you’re playing a round of 18, that zephyr can sound like a typhoon after awhile, though you “get used to it.”
The fact is that noise is a form of pollution, but unlike the black smoke pouring out of coal-fired, generating plants, you can’t see noise, or taste it or find it on your clothes. It’s invisible, yet it’s the most widespread form of pollution we have, and that’s not a good distinction – most pervasive, insidious, dangerous pollution in our environment is not a badge of honor. Even so, most of us are not only unaware of noise pollution; most of us seek it out. Yep, most people like noise. They even pay money for it.
Noise Reduction at the Source
Now, who’d pay money for noise? Chances are, you have and you do.
When you go to the googolplex to watch the latest movie, you want to feel the explosions in your gut and experience the blast on your skin. Now, how much did you pay for that movie ticket?
What about iPods and MP3 players? Own one? Know someone who does? Well, those noise guns may not pollute the environment but they sure do pollute your ear canals and the rest of your hearing mechanism when not played at responsible listening levels.
We buy surround sound systems for home use to get the full experience of watching 34 commercials a day in surround sound and hi-def. We like our choppers to have a throaty throttle and our sports cars to purr loudly while idling.
Then there’s the general, background noise that bombards our ears throughout the day – at the office, on the factory floor, on the busy city sidewalk or in our favorite, albeit clamorous, bistros. Noise is everywhere. We can’t escape it, unless we want to live in a tent somewhere in the mountains without any contact. We like noise. It’s stimulating and adds to the richness of life.
Effects of Noise on Your Body
Let’s start with the expected. Noise damages the delicate hearing mechanism nature provides. Exposure to noise above 80 decibels (dB, the measurement of the loudness of noise and sound) is harmful dependent upon the exposure time. Here are some noise levels you might encounter:
What else does this jumble of jangle do to us? Noise effects the entire body:
We’ve all experienced it. We all know the effects. That ringing in your ears when you leave that rock concert? It’s called tinnitus by hearing professionals and can last multiple days, during which time the stressed hearing system tries to heal itself as best it can – but the fact is that once hearing loss occurs it almost never comes back.
And the effects are cumulative, which means they add up throughout a lifetime. So, every time you are exposed to dangerous levels of noise, your hearing is slowly wearing away. That’s part of the problem. Hearing loss is often gradual, taking place over years (but a little bit worse every day) and it’s painless.
So Are You Doomed to Have Hearing Loss?
No. In fact, you can enjoy healthy hearing for a long, long time, if you take steps to protect what hearing you have left.
Here’s what you do:
You know it’s a noisy world. You live here. But there are things you can do to lessen the impact noise has on your entire body and psyche. Noise isn’t good. It’s ear pollution – and you don’t even know it’s there.
Go pro-active when it comes to protecting your hearing and the hearing of loved ones (kids are even more susceptible to hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise so check those toys before you buy).
Take charge of what goes in your ear to ensure healthy hearing for years to come.