Noise pollution is horrible for your health. In this blog post, I'll give you 12 solutions to counteract the problem!
The goal is to lower your exposure as much as possible - applying these strategies can actually lower exposure 100-1,000-fold!
Also, since this blog post is the third installment of a 3-part series on noise pollution, let's first recap wat I've talked about in my previous writing:
Noise pollution is horrible for your overall health. In two previous blog posts, I've talked extensively about:
In this section, I'll recap the basics of what I wrote in those blog posts...
In the first blog post, I defined sound as:
Sound, firstly, is the propagation of waves that are either consciously or subconsciously audible to the brain by using your ears.
Noise, moreover, is simply an unwanted sound, that your body either consciously or unconsciously registers (or both).
It's not crystal clear when sound becomes noise - context matters a lot. A very distracting or irratating sound that's not loud at all, such as someone whispering your name when you're trying to concentrate, can be noise.
However, most noise that people are exposed to entails the presence of a loud sound, that's either present intermittently or continuously.
In the first blog post, I wrote that noise matters, because:
- your children will perform poorer in school
- you'll continually have a continuous low-level of stress in your life
- sleep becomes worse
- you're getting high blood pressure and increase your chance for heart attacks and strokes
- disturbs wildlife in your area
- and much, much more.
In the second blog post, I went into much more detail of these (health) consequences of noise and added that noise leads to:
Moreover, children, shift workers, older people and those with psychological issues are more affected by noise.
But how do you know when you're exposed to noise? That question is really important because if you live in a big city, you might not even know that you're continually exposed. Just like a fish doesn't notice the water, living in the big city inhibits your ability to notice noise.
So, if you're annoyed by noise, you know you're exposed, but, if you're not annoyed, you're not certain yet.
The Decibel scale (dB) measures the loudness of noise. For the sake of argument, I won't go into much detail of different dB measurements right now.
Keep in mind that the dB scale is logarithmic. In this case, logarithmic means that for every 10dB increase on the scale, loudness increases 10-fold.
So, the difference between 20 and 40 dB is a 100-fold difference in loudness. And the difference between 40 and 80 dB is a 10,000-fold difference in loudness.
Here's the list of different exposures included in the first installment of this series:
Decibel Exposure Chart
I've charted different sound (and noise) exposure levels:[1; 2; 3; 42]
I'll give you some examples of loudness at each dB level:
10dB - Your breathing, the Grand Canyon at night, or the sound of dropping a pin
20dB - Leaves in the forest, whispering of a single person, a rural area with snow
30dB - A common quiet rural area sound level, or running computer.
40dB - Multiple people whispering in a classroom, library sound, birds singing
50dB - Regular conversations, very light traffic, background music, dishwasher
60dB - Air conditioner, bypassing car at 50 miles per hour, restaurant conversation
Now, at 65dB noise can already become damaging (if you're exposed for a long time):
70dB - Showering, music at regular-loudness, bypassing trucks, vacuum cleaner
80dB - Drilling machine, your morning alarm clock, a bypassing freight train
90dB - Low-flying Boeing 737, mp3 player, lawnmower
100dB - Subway car, food processor, airplane take-off, motorcycle
110dB - A rock concert, jackhammer, or an auto horn at a 3-yard distance
120dB - Classroom filled with screaming children, thunder impact
130dB - Football stadium noise peak
At this point, noise starts to generate ear-pain:
140dB - Jet engine take-off, firecrackers
150dB - Rock concert peak near speakers, fighter jet take-off
160dB - Weapons firing (such as a shotgun),
180dB - Rocket launch
194dB - Official maximum sound level - at this point, a sound is converted into "shockwaves".
So, the dB scale officially ends at 194 dB - let's hope you're never exposed to that from up close because you'd almost certainly suffer hearing loss!
Let me ask you a few questions:
You should know the answer to those question by now...
Of course, many downtown areas of big cities such as New York and Hong Kong are also extremely rich, but many people live there because they have to for their job or business.
Once you've accumulated a nice amount of wealth, it's very probable that you'll choose to live in places that are secluded from the noisiest parts of a city. Of course, buying a $5,000,000 lakeside mansion is not an option for everyone.
Let's, therefore, look at what you can do to stop noise, if you're living in a noisy place anyway. In general, indoor noise is also rated as more annoying than outdoor noise.
That's great news because indoor noise is generally more controllable. Let's, therefore, look at the tips to influence noise pollution in your environment. I'll start with the very obvious:
You may think: "I want to do my own sound measurements. Can you help me?"
Great call! Measurement is the key to controlling anything in life, including sound and noise!
Buy this specific device. The device might not be the most precise on the market today, but for general sound measurements, it has a top-notch price/function relationship:
(Click the picture to be taken
to the webshop).
For under $20, you can get a great general impression of the sound (or noise) levels in your residential, work, or recreational environment...
Another option is to install a sound meter app on your Android or iPhone.
Here are the rules for precisely measuring dB levels:
For a valid reading for your location, I recommend taking sound readings during the morning, evening, and nighttime (before you go to bed), for 1-2 weeks long.
An alternative method to measure sound is to take up to ten completely random measurements throughout the year, which will be representative of the average noise level in that environment for the entire year.
Measuring your sound levels is really important around your home or workplace.
Can't measure a location because, for instance, you're looking for places to live outside your country? Then use a map:
"Any other ways to know how much sound pollution I'm subjected to?"
Yes, there certainly are ways to know the general noise pollution levels in areas. I recommend you find a noise map of your area of interest. Many governments actually map sound and noise levels nowadays.
In the Netherlands - where I live - you can basically view a map of the sound levels in any city, such as Amsterdam:
For different countries, different maps can be found online. These maps are called "noise maps", and the method to produce these maps is called "strategic noise mapping".
For the US, you can follow this link to get a noise map. EU citizens can open up this link.
Remember from the previous sections that if you have a higher perception of control, the same level of noise is much more bearable.
The first step in the process of dealing with noise is thus mental: creating awareness. Most people don't even know how much noise negatively affect their health. Once you're aware of the noise though, you can start to influence the problem.
Make sure to double or triple check where the noise both inside and outside your home is coming from. Deal with in-house noise first. Do you have multiple electronic devices activated, such as a radio or television?
If so, you're aggravating your own problem.
Another way to increase your perception of control is by making sure that at least some parts of your house have lower noise levels. In other words, if your house cannot be fully noise-free, make sure just one room is.
A lower-noise area allows you to escape the heavier noise-polluted areas of your home. When part of a house has lower noise levels, annoyance goes down in most people - of course, because people can then intentionally control their noise exposure.
Additionally, make sure to read all other tips in this blog post to further increase your perception of control over noise.
The more of these tips you apply, the better the overall results will be and the greater your perception of control.
Bottom line: take action to increase your perception of control and lower annoyance. This problem demonstrates that noise problems can be dealt with, even though it's very hard work sometimes.
(How you see your situation can be part
of the problem or the solution.)
Are you exposed to noise anyway? Then apply the following tip:
Remember that noise literally puts a low-level stress on your body as long as you're exposed. Fortunately, you can compensate (somewhat) for noise exposure.
In the past, I've written many blog posts that offer health strategies which can make you fundamentally healthier:
Bottom line: the more you can improve your overall health, the less of an effect noise will have on you.
Referring to the previous tip of increasing your perception of control, applying these overall health tips will all radically help in that area. With better overall health, noise will simply not impact you as much as when you're in very poor health - you've thus got more leeway.
But how to deal with noise if you have to anyway?
That's when we arrive at the following tip...
Remember that high-level thinking is actually most inhibited by noise. In other words, when you're stressed, the most recently developed human brain areas associated with abstract thought are constrained first, while lower more primitive brain areas begin to predominate more.
To prevent noise from inhibiting high-level thinking, wear a hearing protector during the day:
(Click the picture to see product's details)
I actually wear that exact same 3M hearing protector myself when needing to focus. The hearing protector really helps me write blog posts because an insane amount of environmental noise is blocked by that hearing protector.
To be precise, this hearing protector will reduce sound levels in your environment with 31dB.
How much is a 31dB reduction?
A lot, actually:
For some people, a 31dB reduction is almost the difference between heaven and hell, because it's a whopping 1,000-fold difference!
For me that's true for sure...
While there are many hearing protectors on the market that claim a reduction of 35 to even 37dB, the hearing protector listed above has the greatest dB reduction that's actually validly tested.
Why do I recommend this specific hearing protector?
Hearing protectors are also highly recommended for use in children. Remember that children are more vulnerable to noise pollution compared to adults.
Here in the Netherlands - where I live - about 10% of children already wear hearing protectors in classrooms. If you're a parent, I would highly recommend your child to also wear hearing protectors - especially if they're sensitive to noise.
There's one caveat though: I don't think that wearing hearing protectors is a smart thing for your child if they're the only one in the classroom wearing them, because they might get bullied.
As a parent, you have to very carefully weigh the decision of your child wearing hearing protectors combined with the possibility of them being bullied, versus not wearing them at all.
Only if other children are already wearing hearing protectors in the classroom is it more highly recommended to have your kid pick up that habit as well.
I make this statement because I think that the negative effects of social isolation - due to bullying - are far worse than the negative effects of noise. Noise will impair your child's cognitive performance, but social exclusion and bullying can destroy their mental well-being and brain for a long time.
If you're going to buy hearing protectors for your child anyway, buy these:
(Click the picture to see product details)
You can get these children's hearing protectors in multiple colors, such as black for boys, and pink for girls.
Getting the color right will make them look cool for children, reducing the chances of stigma.
Are there other methods for further reducing noise levels?
If you're working at a computer, for the best results, combine the hearing protector with anti-radiation earphones.
With these earphones, you can create background noise in your ear, which further overrules sound originating from the environment.
Why this product?
These "air tubes" do not emit "electromagnetic radiation" directly in your ear because they transmit the sound through a tube, and they are therefore less damaging to your health as regular earphones.
Having electromagnetic frequencies - which are emitted by many electronic devices such as WiFi and cellphone towers - close to your body is almost certainly damaging.
In fact, regular earphones emit electromagnetic frequencies at a location where they are the most damaging: directly against your brain. As you hopefully already know, electromagnetic frequency exposure - such as holding a phone to your brain - is probably not optimal for your health, and potentially very destructive.
For that reason, you need to wear headphones that reduce that radiation, by sharply increasing the distance of the electromagnetic frequencies from your brain. The air tubes pictures above are perfect for that.
Fortunately, the hearing protectors and air tubes combine well. So with this combination, at least you can perform well cognitively!
With the combination, you should be able to block out most noise from your environment, unless you're near an airplane taking off, or at a rock concert...
But what to do during those annoying night times?
For that situation I've got a solution as well:
Wear earplugs when you're going to sleep if there's lots of noise in your environment.[86; 87; 88; 89; 90; 91; 92; 93]
(Click the picture to see product details)
Earplugs are extremely cheap but very effective. By cutting about 30dB of sound from your environment, you can even sleep very well in a 65dB environment that would normally be directly harmful to your health.
What's even more interesting is that the number of stress hormones goes down if you're wearing earplugs while sleeping in a noisy environment. Another hormone that causes you to sleep longer, deeper, and longer, called "melatonin", is increased. Your amount of deep sleep also increases while wearing earplugs.
Overall, earplugs are an inexpensive must-have for dealing with noise in city life.
Earplugs are a win-win.
Insulating rooms can reduce noise pollution by about 7dB.[94; 95] While 7dB might not seem like it's a lot, I estimate that 7dB equals about a 5-fold decrease in noise intensity.
If the noise does not originate from outside the building, but from the building itself, you can choose to insulate rooms with noise-dampening mats. Mats reduce noise by about 7dB as well. Make sure to use non-toxic materials for insulating your bedroom.
Is there more you can do?
Any appliances such as your washing machine should be located far away from your bedroom. Alternatively, don't use appliances during the night.
Overall, your bedroom is the most important area of the house when dealing with noise. More noise in your living room or kitchen can be forgiven, because you're probably not in your house during the daytime anyway.
A bad night's sleep - occurring frequently due to noise - cannot be compensated for. Sleep is a mandatory primary in health...
Guarantee that your interior is designed correctly to counter noise.[42; 97; 240; 244]
A difference in wall choice alone can reduce total sound penetration by 86%.
There's also drywall can even be applied on top of existing walls. To achieve that effect, a substance called "Quiet Solution drywall" need to be added to both the outside and inside of a wall.
The problem with these dry walls is that they're made from gypsum - which often contains airborne toxins. It's better to exclusively use such materials at the outside of your homes, so that toxins cannot leach inside your home.
But what if you're building a new house?
In that case, there are many options for reducing the sound through the construction of walls. Wall studs, for example, can dramatically reduce noise levels. Adding more insulation increases noise pollution too - such as batt insulation or fiberglass insulation.
The problem with some of these materials is that they are toxic and suspected to increase cancer. Wooden wall studs combined with lots of concrete, therefore, are what I consider the best options.
If you apply several layers of these materials well, you can decrease noise levels with 70-80dB. A 80dB noise reduction is insane, and can completely change your life for the better.
But you can go further:
Even floors can be accommodated to reduce noise. Cork and concrete floors are great, both reducing sound levels as well. Hardwood, tile, and laminate floors, on the contrary, increase overall noise levels.
How about the walls of your (existing) house?
Acoustic panels are an additional option to reduce sound penetration in your home:[241; 243]
If you cover over 20% of your wall with such acoustic panels, you'll reduce noise levels dramatically. You can even get these panels in different colors so that you can make a wall covered with acoustic panels look like artwork.
The downside of these panels is that they're often covered in flame retardants, which toxin that's emitted into the air. Moreover, acoustic panels will mostly dampen the noise originating from inside a room though, and won't filter out the noise coming from the outside as much.
Some in-house materials can also reduce (mostly in-house) noise pollution, such as carpeted floors.
The problem with carpeted floors, yet again, is that they often cause air pollution. Carpeted floors increase allergy levels and breathing problems, for example. So everything is a tradeoff, basically!
If you use such floors to reduce noise pollution, you'd better be sure to keep them as clean as possible and to buy carpets that are made from organic material. Even though producers of carpet floors claim otherwise, most modern carpet floors are still problematic.
Rugs and wall hangings are great options to reduce noise pollution as well, reducing overall indoor-originating sound levels. Rugs have the exact same problem as carpet flooring, however, in that they are often polluting the indoor air quality.
Fortunately, you can find high-quality organic rugs here. Rugs are much easier to clean than carpeting.
What if you're blocking noise through using materials that put toxins into the air anyway? A solution for improving indoor air quality would be to use an air purifier. Make sure to buy an air purifier that does not emit lots of noise during the night, if you use that thing in or near your bedroom.
Additionally, buy an air purifier that does not work with WiFi - again, to reduce electromagnetic frequencies.
Am I done yet?
One of the best options to reduce noise that originates outside your home is to buy noise-blocking curtains.
Noise-blocking curtains can be very efficient:
(Click the picture to view
One problem with these curtains is that they block most sunlight as well. Such curtains are therefore mostly recommended for using in your bedroom at night, and not the rest of your house (if you spend time there during the day.
The curtains displayed above are made of 100% cotton. That material is great because we've finally found yet another noise blocking material that's non-toxic.
While you can buy curtains that block out even more noise (and light at night), such curtains are not recommended because they expose you to more toxins again.
Use the curtains above, and reduce the noise coming from outside your house dramatically. Remember, windows and open spaces leak the most noise into your home.
If maximal noise-reduction is your goal, moreover, make sure your doors and windows are sealed as much as possible, .
Little spaces between windows and window frames, for example, let through lots of noise. The solution is to use (non-toxic) sealants, which prevent sound from leaking through small spaces. Make sure to always opt for non-toxic materials.
Don't forget to seal door bottoms as well, for example, by putting cloth object in front of that opening.
Again, you cannot keep your windows closed 24-7 because the indoor air quality will go down a lot. If you keep your windows closed most of the time, moreover, you absolutely need an air purifier to avoid an indoor buildup of toxins.
Outside your house, lastly, vegetation may reduce indoor noise somewhat.
The best way to implement this tip is to integrate lots of green areas around your house, which will reduce the impact of noise. Make sure to place the vegetation as close to the noise source as possible - a strategy which reduces the dB levels the most.
So if you're living near a busy road, make sure to place trees as close to the busy road as feasible, instead of planting close to your house.
For the best noise-blocking effects, vegetation also needs to be as dense as possible. If you can look through the vegetation, the effects of blocking sound are severely limited. Of course, it's best to use trees that maintain their "leaves" in all seasons, such as cedar or pine trees.
But what if you cannot plant that much vegetation?
In that case, surrounding yourself with lots hedges and plants can still reduce your perception of noise.[12; 82; 83; 84; 85]
Even though in some instances greenery may not literally reduce the noise levels in your home, you'll be more able to cope with annoyances of noise pollution - although studies are somewhat conflicted.
Vegetation may lower the perception of noise because you may longer see the source of the problem. Remember that noise is partially located in your mind...
There's more though. Let's look at another tip for the nighttime:
What's "white noise"?[245; 246; 247; 248; 249; 250]
White "noise" is a pleasant sound that's used to block out subjectively-rated annoying sounds from the environment.
If you're exposed to lots of moments of "peak noise", whereby there are sudden and instantaneous high sound pollution levels, white noise is a great solution for you. White noise reduces the difference between the peak of the noise and the regular background sound levels.
Let's say your average nighttime sound level is 40dB. Once in a while, however, a train passes by that creates a 75dB noise. It's almost certain that the 75dB peak will keep you out of sleep because there's an almost instantaneous increase of 35dB of sound levels.
The train acts like a big shock to your system...
White noise might give you a continuous 55dB pleasant background noise. Whenever there's a train passing by while you're sleeping with white noise, there's merely a 20dB difference in peak sound levels. The arrival of the noise pollution is less abrupt, and therefore less of a shock to your body.
What's important to remember is that extreme levels of white noise can become noise pollution again. If you're exposing yourself to 95dB of white noise during the night time, there will certainly be negative consequences for your sleep quality.
Nevertheless, white noise can benefit almost anyone exposed to noise pollution at night. Even just-born babies are helped by white noise. I will say that using white noise is worse than complete silence, but, it's much better than peak noises that heavily disturb you.
So if necessary, get a white noise machine and sleep better tonight:
(Click the picture to see the product)
Several types of white noise exist: you can even get white noise that acts like a dishwasher or machinery.
I don't think that type of white noise is optimal though, and I would opt for beach or forest sounds. Nature has built affinity to certain sounds - such as leaves or water - deeply inside us.
The machine listed above has many different types of white noise so that you can always use a sound-type that's right for your unique circumstances.
Simple solution, but a big payoff.
Combine this tip with the earplugs for the best results.
First of all, social noise is often the easiest to manage.
One of the most frequent sources of noise pollution are neighbors, who may, for example, have a party with loud music during the night.
Talk to these neighbors, and see whether the problem can be solved socially. Be very polite. If talking does not work after a few tries, report them to the landlord or call the cops on your neighbors.
Sleep is that important for your health. And if the cops don't help sufficiently, monitor the noise levels with a decibel meter and sue these people.
Of course, make sure you're not creating noise in the neighborhood yourself when pointing the finger at someone else. Additionally, make sure you're above reproach in other areas of proper neighborly conduct before you follow through with action.
But what about traffic noise - are you helpless in the face of that problem? Not at all. There options for managing traffic noise in your neighborhood...
Usually, you cannot influence traffic noise as an individual - such making sure traffic curfews get built that dramatically reduce noise levels. If you can arrange such a solution with the city - of course, with the help of your neighbors - you're all going to be very happy.
For example, you can start a petition with your neighbors to reduce sound pollution in your environment. You can together aim to keep the road you're living at free from noisy trucks, or to prevent trains from passing through your town during the night.
How big are the improvements?
Barrier walls, for example, can reduce noise by 10-15dB. 10-15dB might not seem to be a lot, but it's more than a 20-fold reduction in loudness. If you're exposed to 60-70dB of sound during the night, a barrier wall can mean the difference between a long-term hearing loss and having much less extreme consequences.
Roads can also be constructed with specialized asphalt, which reduces sound by 6-12dB. Even for cities themselves, proper design of roads and railways is the preferred option. Naturally, it's much cheaper to design low-sound infrastructure from the outset, compared to correcting the problem by erecting miles of barrier walls afterward.
You thus need to take action before neighborhood plans are already being carried out...
Besides the aforementioned ad hoc solutions, it would be best to pressure automobile companies to reduce their overall noise levels--but few individuals have an incentive to do so. Fortunately, that noise-lowering process is already occurring on its own. Yes really, cars and airplanes have become less loud during the last few decades.
How about airplane noise?
If you start lots of petitions and complain a lot about airplane traffic, the noise is also more prone to be taken into account by governmental institutions. In my country, for example, protests have (somewhat) successfully slowed the increase of noise from Amsterdam's main airport.
(Remember, a reduction in the growth of noise is better than full-blown expansion.)
Overall, there are social solutions to environmental noise problems, if and only if you use your collective bargaining power in your area. On your own, you can only stop your neighbors (if you're lucky)--but not the government or airplane travel companies.
But what to do if nothing helps for reducing noise pollution?
In that case, I've got yet another option:
Yes, you've read that right...
Let me take a quick detour:
In a previous guide on stress, I've included a mindfulness meditation mini-course. Mindfulness meditation can help you accept "what is" - or reality - without continually wanting to change your situation.
May people cannot accept the noise in their environment in the first place. That reaction of non-acceptance is understandable on the one hand, because there's nothing positive about noise at all. As long as you're trying to fight the noise, however, you're suffering the consequences of noise twice.
Well, first there are noise's negative effects in your body, such as the activation of your nervous system and the creation of stress hormones. Secondly, there's the suffering associated with wanting to change your situation.
That suffering added on top of the automatic negative bodily effects.
Suffering actually adds insult to injury. The more you're trying to "change" noise, the more you'll suffer.
Worrying and ruminating are all signs that you're suffering over noise...
Of course, I'm not saying you should not actively deal with noise if it's possible to do so. If you can buy curtains that dramatically reduce the noise levels in your house, please do so.
What's very important to understand, however, is that if you're subjected to the noise of bypassing trains every day, and there's no way to change your situation, then it's best to accept the circumstances and stop fighting.
Whenever your fight the inevitable, you're exerting (and wasting) precious energy. Mindfulness meditation removes the suffering from the process over time.
The more you practice mindfulness, the better the results will get.
And by the way:
I'm not just speculating about the validity of using mindfulness in this very specific situation--mindfulness has actually been proven to work in reducing stress associated with aircraft-related noise.[275; 276]
What mindfulness accomplishes on a very basic level - after some time of practice - is quieting the amygdala in your brain. Remember that the amygdala is your brain's "alarm bell" that can trigger a fight, flight, or freeze response.
Mindfulness - by returning your attention to the present moment - lowers the activity of your amygdala. Your prefrontal cortex - the brain part in your forehead which function is to plan, focus, and act as "working memory" - quiets that amygdala during that mindfulness meditation process.
Again, you can read my 100% free and more elaborate guide on mindfulness here.
No strings attached.
Secondly, mindfulness has yet another benefit: teaching your brain to focus on what you deem important, instead of focusing on distractions.
Let me explain how...
Even if there's 70dB of noise outside your home, mindfulness teaches you to divert your attention at the task you should be focusing right now.
There's little benefit to spending your hard-earned energy on focusing on things you cannot change. By focusing on taking action in other areas of your life, you're at least getting some return on your invested energy.
You might be thinking: "how about dealing with noise when you're asleep?"
Well, that case is somewhat similar: don't tell yourself that you cannot sleep due to noise.
People who experience noise are almost inevitably angered or irritated by the fact, and cannot sleep. But you know what? Eventually, almost everyone falls asleep despite the excruciating noise.
The problem of noise thus needs a mental re-frame. Even during sleep, it's not the noise that makes up 100% of the problem, but your reaction towards noise also matters as well.
The Buddha: teaching how to end
suffering for thousands of years.
Thus spend your energy wisely. You can only spend your energy once.
But what if all else fails?
Or don't you like my previous suggestions?
In that case, push the "nuclear button":
Moving should never be your first option.
But sometimes, there's literally no alternative. If you're living near industry, or a very busy railroad or airport, there's very little you can do to fully mitigate the risks.
You'd end up wearing ear protectors during the day, and earplugs at night. And ask yourself, what kind of life is that? Maybe you're really sensitive to noise - that's a fact you also need to take into account.
In all of these cases, if life's not worth living in a noise-hellhole, please move to another location that has lower noise levels. Don't wait until you've ruined many more years of your life.
Moving: simple, but ultimately very effective.
My blog post on noise pollution.
Let's conclude, and take the 10,000-yard view...
Environmental noise is sometimes referred to as the "forgotten pollutant". At other times, noise is named the (intentionally) "ignored pollutant".
There's truth to both statements...
On the one hand, many institutions have started proactively legislating to keep noise levels down. The EU is one such institution. While the US has historically been the first country that developed laws on noise, these laws are not upheld as strictly as they should.
On the other hand, noise has traditionally almost been accepted as a "fact of life", a byproduct of "progress" during the Industrial Revolution.
In a sense, the mentality of that assessment is still predominant today. Even though governments legislate to keep noise levels down, levels have still been increasing rather than decreasing in the last few decades.
Noise is thus still ignored and forgotten.
Seeing noise as an inevitable byproduct of the capitalist system, however, is very dangerous. When we see noise as "natural", we're closed off from finding solutions to the problem. Why? Well, by seeing noise as inevitable it is not identified as a solvable problem in the first place.
Let's consider why the topic of noise pollution problem is so important:
In 2050, the number of people living in urban environments will almost double. Not only will more people thus be exposed to noise pollution, but increasing population densities will also increase overall noise levels all by themselves.
That's double trouble...
And again, noise pollution is currently already increasing.
1 million healthy life years are lost every year in the EU due to noise pollution. What do these numbers imply?
Let's stay very conservative, and assume that 5 million healthy life years are lost yearly on a worldwide basis. Let's also say that the average person becomes 80 years old, but only stays healthy for 50 years (without having one disease). In that case, the equivalent of 5,000,000 / 50 = 100,000 lives are lost on a yearly basis due to noise.
In a decade, noise kills the equivalent of one million people. And by the way, that number only takes traffic-related noise into account, ignoring noise of social origins and industry.
These numbers will also increase over time...
The biggest problem in the area of noise - in my opinion - is that existing noise laws are not strictly enforced.
The EU has a 40dB (averaged) nighttime limit on noise. And yet, that limit is exceeded almost everywhere. Of course, you can certainly argue that a 40dB limit is unrealistic because that limit is exceeded almost everywhere.
But still, then, I would recommend creating more realistic noise limits, strictly enforcing them, and slowly bringing the noise limit down to 40dB over a period of time.
Noise, to me, is very simple from a political perspective: it's a form of violence leveled upon fellow human beings. I don't care if you want to produce 100dB of noise in your own home, and destroy your own hearing capacity.
Once noise affects other individuals, it's a mild form of violence.
There are some (big) problems with my position, of course, such as an inability for society to operate without at least some noise. But I do think that people should at the least be compensated for any negative effect.
Many people living near industry or airports, for example, are polluted by noise but not compensated at all for the "annoyance".
Other people live in $5,000,000 mansions, use the airplanes that create noise pollution, but don't contribute to solving the problem at all - and are not hit hard by noise.
The same is true for car owners: people who drive cars do not compensate people who live in poor neighborhoods that are located close to highways.
Lastly, let's also remember that noise pollution affects wildlife outside as well.
Even in excluded wildlife areas, the levels of sounds have increased 10-fold over what was previously present without human intervention.[285; 286; 287] With an increase in noise over the coming decades, that effect will only become stronger as well.
It's a time for choosing...
At least you can choose...
You've now got some tools to reduce noise pollution in your environment.
Couldn't be any simpler.
Although finding solutions may not be easy, you now at least understand the problem and why noise causes trouble.
Understanding is the first step to finding solutions...
And yes: you can completely change your life by getting this issue handled.
Lots of people have done so before. So can you...
This is a post by Bart Wolbers. Bart finished degrees in Physical Therapy (B), Philosophy (BA and MA), Philosophy of Science and Technology (MS - Cum Laude), and Clinical Health Science (MS), and is currently a health consultant at Alexfergus.com.
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