The Worsening Effects of Noise Pollution

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Loud music in a bar or club can contribute to noise pollution and hearing loss.

Noise pollution has been pinpointed as an underestimated health threat. Research from around the world consistently shows that people who live in crowded cities not only suffer from higher incidence of hearing loss, but also from short- and long-term health problems, including sleep disturbance, cardiovascular effects, poorer cognitive performance and more.

Hearing loss can add to cognitive decline and noise pollution can make it harder to focus.

Noise has also emerged as a leading environmental nuisance, and complaints are rising against the level of "background" noise present almost anywhere, from the street to the subway to a restaurant. Noise pollution doesn't only exist in loud work environments, but almost everywhere.

The World Health Organization guidelines for night noise recommend less than 40 A-weighted decibels (dB(A)) in bedrooms at night; otherwise, sleep quality is compromised, and adverse health effects can appear. In addition, they recommend less than 35 dB(A) in classrooms to avoid compromising teaching and learning abilities.

For World Hearing Day in 2017, digital hearing app Mimi published a report that visually showed hearing loss around the world. The study investigated how noise pollution in cities relates to hearing, Data from over 200,000 participants of their hearing test, statistics from WHO and the SINTEF report on noise pollution were all used to score countries around the globe and develop a hearing index.

The results showed a 64 percent correlation between noise pollution and hearing loss, and showed that, on average, a person living in one of the world's loudest cities has hearing loss equivalent to that of a person a decade or two older.

A 2016 study on noise annoyance and a potential link to depression and anxiety among people living close to an airfield showed a strong link between the amount of noise endured and the mental health of those living in the vicinity of the noise from the airfield. A 2018 study of cardiovascular health in relation to noise annoyance built on the 2016 study, and showed that, especially in patients who experiences sleep disturbance as a result of aircraft noise, cardiovascular health appeared to decline.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is one of the greatest side effects of noise pollution. Musical concerts, sporting events, movie theaters, dance clubs, video arcades and shooting ranges, weddings, birthday parties, bars, restaurants, city traffic, public transportation and even fitness studios with the music cranked up to 11 for Zumba can cause hearing loss.

The Hearing Health Foundation advocates three ways to protect against excessive noise:

  • Wear protective earplugs or hearing protectors to block excess noise
  • Walk away from noisy areas, and ask for seating al fresco at restaurants and bars if it is quieter outside
  • Turn down electronics and avoid venues with loud music or construction noise

Learning to manage the amount of noise pollution you expose yourself to can limit your hearing loss. Correctly functioning and fitted hearing aids can help you compensate for any loss that has already occurred.

Research from around the world consistently shows that people who live in crowded cities not only suffer from higher incidence of hearing loss, but also from short- and long-term health problems.