What is it?
Noise is all around you, from televisions and radios to lawn mowers and washing machines. Normally, you hear these sounds at safe levels that don’t affect hearing. However, exposure to excessive noise can damage hearing. Harmful or annoying levels of noise are considered noise pollution.
Why is it a concern?
Loud sounds can damage sensitive structures of the inner ear and cause hearing loss. This makes conversation and other daily activities more difficult, and also causes many other health problems. Exposure to noise causes stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Who is at risk?
People differ in their sensitivity to noise. As a general rule, sounds louder than 80 decibels are hazardous. Noise may damage your hearing if you are at arm’s length and have to shout to make yourself heard. If noise is hurting your ears, your ears may ring, or you may have difficulty hearing for several hours after exposure to the noise.
Children often participate in recreational activities that can harm their hearing. These activities include attending music concerts and sporting events, watching fireworks, and playing with noisy toys and video games. Listening to loud music, especially on headphones, is a common cause of noise-induced hearing loss.
What pollutants are of greatest concern?
Hearing loss can result from a single loud sound near your ear, or from common activities that you are repeatedly exposed to over time. Some sources of loud noise that you may be exposed to include:
- Busy city traffic
- Emergency siren
- Gas-powered lawn mower
- Hair dryer
- Jack hammer
- Jet plane (from 100 ft.)
- Leaf blower
- Music player
- Rock concert
- Washing machine
Reduce your risk
- Do you listen to a personal music player?
- Do you attend concerts or sporting events?
- Do you work at a job where you are exposed to loud noises?
- Do you use firearms?
- Do you often hear noise from road, rail, or air transportation?
- Do you live near a noisy highway, railroad track, or an airport?
- Minimize noise levels. Lower the volume on televisions and when you are listening to music.
- Turn off the television when it’s not in use.
- Ask manufacturers for noise emission labeling on consumer products.
- Wear ear plugs at concerts or loud sporting events.
- If you are exposed to loud noises at work, wear ear plugs, ear muffs, or headphones when possible.
- Install double-paned windows and weather stripping.
- Plant trees to create noise buffers.
- Work with your local government to begin regulating noise levels in your community.
- Spend time in silence. Meditate or relax in a quiet environment.
- Don’t allow children to play near highways.
- Don’t allow children to use headphones, especially when the volume is high.