Noise Pollution and Mental Health


Living or working in continual loud noise can be annoying – but did you know it’s bad for your mental health too? Whether you live next to a busy main road, with the constant hum of traffic, or you work in a noisy factory; excess noise can negatively impact your wellbeing.

It can make you feel stressed and annoyed and it can also cause a lack of sleep, especially if it goes on for 24 hours a day. This in turn makes you tired all the time, reducing your energy levels – and when you’re feeling fatigued, this makes you feel less inclined to doing anything.

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Constant exposure to loud noise can interfere with your ability to communicate with others, reduce your efficiency when doing regular tasks and eventually damage your hearing.

 

Serious health effects

The physical effects of loud noise include the tightening of muscles, constriction of blood vessels, increased heart rate and higher blood pressure. This is caused by an increase in adrenaline and the stress hormone, cortisol, in our system. Constant stress can affect people in different ways, as sensitivity varies.

An increasing body of research links continued exposure to traffic and aviation noise to health issues. For instance, disrupted sleep can affect your cardiac health. Other research suggests loud noise can reduce a child’s ability to concentrate.

Children living on the noisier, lower floors of tower blocks had difficulty in distinguishing similar words, such as “sick” and “thick” and didn’t read as well as children living on the higher floors, further away from traffic noise.

Even a small increase in ambient sound can trigger a negative response for people living in the vicinity. Scientists studying people living near Europe’s major airports revealed a 10-decibel increase in noise from the aircraft had led to a 28% increase in the use of medication for anxiety.

Further studies found people living in areas subject to loud noise from road traffic were 25% more likely to suffer depression than those living in quieter areas. The people in noisy areas were also more prone to heart problems such as atrial fibrillation, causing an irregular heartbeat.

 

What are safe noise levels?

The World Health Organisation produces guidelines on safe levels of noise that won’t harm health. It recommends bedroom night-time noise levels no louder than 30 dB LAeq, 8hrs to enjoy undisturbed sleep and that daytime external (garden) noise levels do not exceed 50 dB LAeq, 16hrs in order to prevent any adverse effects.

To put this into context, noise levels on construction sites can often exceed 90 dB(A), so while employees must wear hearing protection, there must also be measures put in place to prevent noise nuisance for neighbouring properties.

Traffic noise accounts for the majority of noise pollution in cities. For example, a car horn can produce up to 90 dB(A) of noise. The level of main road traffic noise usually ranges from 70 dB(A) to 80 dB(A), at around 50ft away from the road. This level of noise interrupts concentration and limits people’s ability to have a conversation.

Other sources of loud noise include a music concert, 110 dB(A); a plane flying overhead, 105 dB(A); a petrol lawn mower, 95 dB(A); a diesel lorry going past, 85 dB(A); refuse collection lorries, 80 dB(A); the general buzz of a noisy urban area, 80 dB(A); a busy commercial area, 65 dB(A); and a large open plan office, 55 dB(A).

 

How can businesses avoid being a noise nuisance?

Businesses who produce a lot of noise can take preventative measures to avoid having a negative impact on neighbours. The first step is employing the services of professional acoustic engineers to carry out a noise assessment. They will prepare a report for the local authority, after assessing the impact of industrial and commercial noise on nearby residential dwellings.

They will also recommend and fit the appropriate noise reduction products to prevent residents from suffering the health problems associated with exposure to loud noise. This will also help the businesses in question to avoid a financial penalty for creating excess noise.

Some of the main sources of industrial noise include pumps, chillers, AC units, generators, fans, plant rooms and other industrial equipment. An effective solution is to install acoustic enclosures to reduce the noise without affecting the operation of the machinery.

Similarly, fitting acoustic screens can reduce the noise pollution caused by industrial plants and machinery, workshops, generators, factories and mechanical plants, which can reach up to 85 dB.

To keep the noise in, a third option is acoustic walls, which are suitable for nightclubs and bars, recording and broadcast studios, theatres and gyms. They can also be used to insulate buildings such as offices, conference rooms, libraries, schools and hospitals, where a quiet environment is needed. Further protection can be provided by acoustic floors, which can be added to new builds, or during the refurbishment of existing premises.

Specific types of noise reduction products are available for certain industries, such as attenuators, which cover a wide range of applications.

 

Some statistics

Mental health issues are among the main causes of illness across the world.

Depression, anxiety, etc. are some of the most life debilitating conditions in the world, but especially in 20-29-year-olds.

Severe depression is the second most prevalent cause of disability worldwide – a contributing factor to suicide and ischemic heart disease.

Around 1 in 6 people in the past week have battled a common mental health problem.

 

If you want to ensure your business doesn’t contribute to these alarming statistics, contact the experts at Sound Planning for further advice.

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