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What is noise pollution?

Have you ever noticed all the sounds that you continuously hear throughout your day?

Vehicles honking, the echos of machines working, or music streaming from a restaurant may just seem like background noise, but it is actually noise pollution.

What is noise pollution?

The Environmental Pollution Centers describes noise pollution as “regular exposure to elevated sound levels that may lead to adverse effects in humans or other living organisms.”

Essentially, noise pollution is a combination of sounds that are caused by humans on a regular basis.

Is noise pollution dangerous?

If you are around noise louder than 70 dB (about the noise level of a vacuum cleaner) you risk damaging your ear hair cells. Damaging these hair cells can cause permanent hearing loss.

You stand a larger risk of hearing loss if you are exposed to consistent noise above 85 dB for eight hours. This often affects anyone who works in construction or near loud street noise on a regular basis.

Read more: How loud is a typical day?

noise pollution decibel chartTypes of noise pollution

We are surrounded by noise pollution every day, which means you may not notice it. Noise pollution are sounds heard daily and consistently.

Causes of noise pollution include:

  • street noise (cars, buses, trucks, emergency vehicles)
  • transportation (subway, train, airplane)
  • workplace (chatter, copying machines, printers)
  • household sounds (T.V., music, dishwasher, washer, dryer, vacuum, etc.)
  • venue sound (concert, movie theater, performing arts theater)
  • personal noise through headphones
  • public spaces (restaurant, coffee shop, mall)

Effects of noise pollution

Hearing loss is an effect of noise pollution. Noise has the potential to damage your hearing starting at just 85 dB. According to a video by Vox, some of the most common sounds people are regularly exposed to that are above 85 dB are:

  • Subway train 100 dB
  • Headphones turned up all the way (100 dB)
  • Fast food restaurant such as Chipotle (91 dB)
  • Coffee shop (89 dB)
  • Bar (105 dB)

“One of the worst things about hearing loss, is ear damage is irreversible,” the Vox video says.

“One of the worst things about hearing loss, is ear damage is irreversible”

The number of adults with hearing loss is rising as more people are exposed to loud noise pollution. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four adults has noise-induced hearing loss.

There are other effects of noise pollution according to the Environmental Pollution Center. These effects include hypertension, sleep disturbances, child development, dementia, and psychological dysfunctions.

How to measure noise pollution

After understanding the dangers of noise pollution, it’s important to know how to recognize an environment that is at a dangerous noise level. As technology advances, there are several ways you can measure the sound around you.

Measure environmental sounds

The easiest way to measure decibel levels in your environment is to use your phone. There are many decibel reader apps available for iOS and Android smartphone uses. Apps such as SoundPrint and Decibel X allow you to measure the sound of an environment. Also, SoundPrint has a feature where you can search for venues to see the noise level of the venue.

Measure noise from headphones

The iOS Health app allows you to monitor your listening habits when you are using Bluetooth headphones.

According to Apple, “after you connect EarPods, AirPods, and other compatible headphones to your iPhone, the audio levels are automatically sent to Health.”

If you have an Apple Watch, your watch can measure and monitor environment sounds as well. You can find the measurements in the Health app on your iPhone.

Read more: The Apple Watch will now help protect your hearing

You can also set volume limits on your smartphone. This is great for parents with young children or to use yourself to resist the temptation to increase the volume on your phone.

What can you do about noise pollution?

The best thing you can do is protect your hearing. You can do this by wearing earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, or removing yourself from an environment with a loud noise. Especially be sure that you are protecting your hearing if you are exposed to noise above 85 dB for an extended period of time.

You can also contact your city government or start advocacy campaigns to reduce or bring awareness to noise solutions in your community. Ask restaurants to turn down their music, or avoid honking in your car are some easy first steps to take.

Read more: Hearing Protection

Kirsten Brackett
Author Details
Kirsten is the managing editor of Hearing Like Me. She has a moderate hearing loss and currently wears Phonak Audéo B-R rechargeable hearing aids. Outside of working for Hearing Like Me, she can be found exploring new cities, trying out new recipes in her kitchen, or hiking. She loves learning about different cultures and languages.
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Kirsten Brackett
Kirsten is the managing editor of Hearing Like Me. She has a moderate hearing loss and currently wears Phonak Audéo B-R rechargeable hearing aids. Outside of working for Hearing Like Me, she can be found exploring new cities, trying out new recipes in her kitchen, or hiking. She loves learning about different cultures and languages.
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