Understanding Noise Pollution

Most of us are very used to the sounds we hear in everyday life. Loud music, the television, people talking on their phone, the traffic and even pets barking in the middle of the night. All of these have become a part of the urban culture and rarely disturb us. However, when the sound of the television keeps you from sleeping all night or the traffic starts to give you a headache, it stops becoming just noise and start turning into noise pollution. For many of us, the concept of pollution is limited to nature and resources. However, noise that tends to disrupt the natural rhythm of life makes for one solid pollutant.

By definition, noise pollution takes place when there is either excessive amount of noise or an unpleasant sound that causes temporary disruption in the natural balance. This definition is usually applicable to sounds or noises that are unnatural in either their volume or their production. Our environment is such that it has become difficult to escape noise. Even electrical appliances at home have a constant hum or beeping sound. By and large, lack of urban planning increases the exposure to unwanted sounds. This is why understanding noise pollution is necessary to curb it in time.


Causes of Noise Pollution

1. Industrialization: Most of the industries use big machines which are capable of producing large amount of noise. Apart from that, various equipments like compressors, generators, exhaust fans, grinding mills also participate in producing big noise. Therefore, you must have seen workers in these factories and industries wearing ear plugs to minimize the effect of noise.

2. Poor Urban Planning: In most of the developing countries, poor urban planning also play a vital role. Congested houses, large families sharing small space, fight over parking, frequent fights over basic amenities leads to noise pollution which may disrupt the environment of society.

3. Social Events: Noise is at its peak in most of the social events. Whether it is marriage, parties, pub, disc or place of worship, people normally flout rules set by the local administration and create nuisance in the area. People play songs on full volume and dance till midnight which makes the condition of people living nearby pretty worse. In markets, you can see people selling clothes via making loud noise to attract the attention of people.

4. Transportation: Large number of vehicles on roads, aeroplanes flying over houses, underground trains produce heavy noise and people get it difficult to get accustomed to that. The high noise leads to a situation wherein a normal person lose the ability to hear properly.

5. Construction Activities: Under construction activities like mining, construction of bridges, dams, buildings, stations, roads, flyovers take place in almost every part of the world. These construction activities take place everyday as we need more buildings, bridges to accommodate more people and to reduce traffic congestion. The down point is that these construction equipments are too noisy.

6. Household Chores: We people are surrounded by gadgets and use them extensively in our daily life. Gadgets like TV, mobile , mixer grinder, pressure cooker, vacuum cleaners , washing machine and dryer, cooler, air conditioners are minor contributors to the amount of noise that is produced but it affects the quality of life of your neighborhood in a bad way.

While this form of pollution may seem harmless, it in fact has far reaching consequences. The adverse effects on the health of the environment are quite severe. Not only is the local wildlife affected by the pollution, humans also face a number of problems due to it.

Effects of Noise Pollution

1. Hearing Problems: Any unwanted sound that our ears have not been built to filter can cause problems within the body. Our ears can take in a certain range of sounds without getting damaged. Man made noises such as jackhammers, horns, machinery, airplanes and even vehicles can be too loud for our hearing range. Constant exposure to loud levels of noise can easily result in the damage of our ear drums and loss of hearing. It also reduces our sensitivity to sounds that our ears pick up unconsciously to regulate our body’s rhythm.

2. Health Issues: Excessive noise pollution in working areas such as offices, construction sites, bars and even in our homes can influence psychological health. Studies show that the occurrence of aggressive behavior, disturbance of sleep, constant stress, fatigue and hypertension can be linked to excessive noise levels. These in turn can cause more severe and chronic health issues later in life.

3. Sleeping Disorders: Loud noise can certainly hamper your sleeping pattern and may lead to irritation and uncomfortable situations. Without a good night sleep, it may lead to problems related to fatigue and your performance may go down in office as well as at home. It is therefore recommended to take a sound sleep to give your body proper rest.

4. Cardiovascular Issues: Blood pressure levels, cardio-vascular disease and stress related heart problems are on the rise. Studies suggest that high intensity noise causes high blood pressure and increases heart beat rate as it disrupts the normal blood flow. Bringing them to a manageable level depends on our understanding noise pollution and how we tackle it.

5. Trouble Communicating: High decibel noise can put trouble and may not allow two people to communicate freely. This may lead to misunderstanding and you may get difficult understanding the other person. Constant sharp noise can give you severe headache and  disturb your emotional balance.

6. Effect on Wildlife: Wildlife faces far more problems than humans because noise pollution since they are more dependent on sound. Animals develop a better sense of hearing than us since their survival depends on it. The ill effects of excessive noise begin at home. Pets react more aggressively in households where there is constant noise.

They become disoriented more easily and face many behavioral problems. In nature, animals may suffer from hearing loss, which makes them easy prey and leads to dwindling populations. Others become inefficient at hunting, disturbing the balance of the eco-system.

Species that depend on mating calls to reproduce are often unable to hear these calls due to excessive man made noise. As a result, they are unable to reproduce and cause declining populations. Others require sound waves to echo-locate and find their way when migrating. Disturbing their sound signals means they get lost easily and do not migrate when they should. To cope up with the increasing sound around them, animals are becoming louder, which may further add to the pollution levels. This is why understanding noise pollution can help us lower the impact it has on the environment.

As of now, there do not exist many solutions to reduce sound pollution. On a personal level, everybody can help reducing the noise in their homes by lowering the volume of the radio, music system and the television. Listening to music without headphones is also a good step forward. Removal of public loudspeakers is another way in which the pollution can be countered.

As is controlling the sound levels in clubs, bars, parties and discos. Better urban planning can help in creating ‘No-Noise’ zones, where honking and industrial noise are not tolerated. It is only when our understanding noise pollution is complete, can we take steps to eradicate it completely.

Image credit:
Trent Rock’s Visual Vices


Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.