Noise is an unwanted sound that is unpleasant, loud, or disruptive. Other words for noise include buzz, cacophony, commotion, crash, cry, explosion, roar, or turbulence.
Noise pollution is described as any disturbing or unwanted sound that interferes with or harms human health or wildlife. Noise pollution is an invisible danger. It is sounds or noises that are either unnatural in volume or production. The loudness of sound is measured in decibels (dB). A normal conversation is about 60 dB, but a lawnmower is about 90 dB and a rock concert is about 120 dB. Repeated exposure to sounds of 85 dB or higher can harm a person’s hearing. This hearing damage can sometimes be permanent. Sound levels between 120 dB and 140 dB can cause pain, and sound levels over 137 dB can cause an acoustic shock (sudden hearing loss).
What are the sources of noise pollution?
The two primary sources of noise pollution. They are:
- Natural sources: Sounds that often go up to 140 dB are produced by thunderstorms, avalanches, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flowing water bodies, animal sounds, etc.
- Artificial sources: These noises are created due to manmade activities, such as construction work, transportation, industries, household noise, musical instruments. These sounds range from 30 to 140 dB and are extremely harmful.
What causes noise pollution?
In most cases, noise pollution is manmade. The causes include:
- Mining operations: Noise of higher intensity is formed from mining operations, such as blasting, drilling, crushing, and excavation.
- Industrialization: Most industries use big machines, generators, compressors, exhaust fans, and grinding mills that produce loud noises.
- Poor urban planning: Proximity to industrial areas, congested houses, sharing small spaces, frequent fights over basic amenities, etc. lead to noise pollution.
- Construction activities: Noise from construction activities hinder the hearing abilities of individuals exposed to this sound.
- Household gadgets: Household gadgets and appliances, such as radio, television, phone, washing machine, air conditioner/cooler, vacuum cleaners, contribute to noise pollution.
- Transportation: Many vehicles on roads, trains, and airplanes generate loud noise. Noise from a single aircraft may produce loudness of sound of up to 130 dB.
- Social events: People play loud music of more than 100 dB in social gatherings, such as marriage receptions, parties, markets, pubs, clubs, discos.
What are the harmful effects and complications of noise pollution?
Noise is more than a mere nuisance, and continuous exposure to loud noise can cause the following harmful effects:
- Hearing problems: Loss of hearing, tinnitus, and damage to eardrums reduced sensitivity to sounds, or deafness.
- Physical problems: Severe headaches, raised blood pressure and pulse rates, respiratory agitation, gastritis, colitis, and there are possibilities of heart attacks.
- Cardiovascular issues: High blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and increased heart rate because normal blood flow is disrupted.
- Psychological problems: Constant stress, fatigue, depression, anxiety, aggressive behavior, and hysteria may happen.
- Sleeping deprivation: Excessively high levels of noise hamper sleeping patterns.
- Trouble communicating: High decibel noise affects free communication between people, leading to misunderstanding.
- Cognitive issues and behavioral changes: Noise pollution lowers brain response and causes impairments in memory and attention span. This leads to low efficiency at work and disrupts children’s learning.
- Effect on wildlife: Reduces habitat quality, increases stress levels, affects migratory birds, leads to dwindling population, and has a serious impact on marine animals, especially those that rely on echolocation.
How can noise pollution be reduced?
Noise pollution can be reduced in the following ways:
- Making an accountable effort to reduce noise like stringent rules by the state and heavy fines.
- Creating a green neighborhood and keeping the sound levels to below 35 dB at night and 40 dB during the day.
- Using alternative means of transport, such as walking, bicycles, or electric vehicles.
- Getting vehicles checked and lubricated regularly to reduce noise.
- Creating no noise zones.
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Australian Academy of Science. Health Effects of Environmental Noise Pollution. https://www.science.org.au/curious/earth-environment/health-effects-environmental-noise-pollution
Science Direct. Noise Pollution. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/noise-pollution