Return to Index
Excess Noise: Bad for Your Mind and Body
When 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 opposite their home. Unfortunately, the work could only be done at low tide.
"They would start at 10:00 p.m. and go on for six hours," recalls Patrick. "The next night they'd start an hour later for another six hours. The noise was tremendous."
The workmen used old and noisy equipment, and left open the acoustic doors supposed to silence the generators. "It was stressful and we couldn't sleep," says Patrick. "Each night we'd think, 'Is this going to start again tonight?'"
How Noise Affects You Mentally and Physically
Unwanted noise that can't be controlled is a problem worth shouting about. Whether it is jack-hammering construction workers or your neighbor's 150-decibel sound system, it can result in mental and physical suffering. In addition to hearing loss, excess noise has been linked to stress, sleep disturbances, hypertension, cardiovascular disorders, and even deficits in children's learning and reading skills.
How to Combat Toxic Noise
There are several steps you can take to avoid letting noise affect you:
- Workplace noise—If you are bothered by loud and persistent noise at work, like a bone-shaking assembly line, you can campaign for a better working environment. If that does not work, then you can wear ear plugs, learn to accept the workplace conditions, or change jobs.
- Neighborhood noise—If you live on a main bus route and opposite a set of lights, you can move your main living room and bedroom to the back of the house, if the architecture of your home allows it. Secondary glazing, in which a second window is fitted inside the first, can cut noise too. Even if they do not bring complete silence, these actions give you a sense of control.
- Noisy neighbors—Most people do not like to confront the person they live next to, because they fear that saying something about the noise may make the problem worse. To take some control consider speaking to your neighbor or writing 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 route. Most cities have a department of environmental protection that will deal with noise problems. They will come and measure the noise. If it is louder than the allowable level, then they will issue a violation. If the problem is with a noisy neighbor, you may need to call the police.
American Psychological Association
Center for Hearing and Communication
Canadian Academy of Audiology
The Canadian Hearing Society
Stansfeld S, Matheson M. Noise pollution: non-auditory effects on health. Br Med Bull. 2003;68(1):243-257.
Noise. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hsb/noise/. Accessed November 12, 2013.
Noise pollution. US Environmental Protection Agency website. Available at: http://www.epa.gov/air/noise.html#health. Updated July 16, 2012. Accessed November 12, 2013.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 11/2013
- Update Date: 11/12/2013