The Oxford English Dictionary defines noise pollution as "harmful or annoying levels of noise." While that definition may be a tad brief, it does get the point across. Wikipedia has chosen to define noise pollution as: "excessive, displeasing human, animal or machine created environmental noise that disrupts the activity or balance of human or animal life." Some might speculate that noise is just noise and how could it really have any sort of effect on one's health. Well, if you have ever been woken from a restful sleep by a barking dog or car alarms, you have felt the stress of noise pollution. Imagine experiencing that scenario every single instance you tried to sleep, for a long period of time. The inevitable buildup of stress and lack of sleep would cause a whole host of physical and mental health issues.

With regard to extreme noise levels, most people are well aware of the damage that can occur to our hearing. Trauma to the eardrum through violent vibrations will cause permanent ruptures, damage to the membrane around the inner ear and the collapse of the cochlear structure. However, not just loud industrial noise will cause permanent damage to the hearing. The outer ear, in combination with the middle ear, is designed to amplify sound. Therefore loud noises at any frequency do have deteriorating effects across the entire range of hearing. A buildup of damage to the ears will lead to decreased hearing as one gets older, even long before the geriatric years set in. Another common result of abnormally loud sounds in the ear is tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Tinnitus can be temporary, or in some cases of prolonged exposure, permanent.

Aside from hearing loss, what other effects on the body result from excess noise? In 1999 the World Health Organization (WHO) agreed that evidence showed there was an association between long term noise exposure and hypertension. More recent studies have even shown that increased levels of noise during the night increase the risk of a heart attack. When we are under stress our adrenal glands release cortisol, a hormone that increases our blood sugar and suppresses the immune system. During the night when we are asleep, noise may not wake us, but our body feels the stress and releases the cortisol. If this keeps happening every night for a prolonged amount of time, the combined effect is stress on the heart and myocardial infarction.

Putting aside the damage to the actual ear and focusing on overall health, the common denominator for adverse effects as a result of noise pollution is stress. And we all know stress kills. Stress has been linked to several forms of cancer, hypertension leading to heart disease, mental illness, social isolation and a whole host of other issues. The WHO European Region, reports that "one in five Europeans is regularly exposed to sound levels at night that significantly damage health." Additionally, the WHO reports that "traffic noise alone is harming the health of every third person..." in Europe. There is no doubt the same effects are being felt on North Americans living in metropolitan areas. When we cannot get enough restful sleep or have quiet solitude to rest our minds, our systems begin to breakdown. Immune systems are suppressed by cortisol, leaving us open to disease.

How can we protect ourselves from noise pollution? It would be impractical to move everyone to rural areas, as they would quickly become urban areas. Some city planners and architects are coming up with ways to buffer traffic noise at the source by constructing noise barriers, limiting vehicle speeds, altering roadway surfaces and using different traffic controls that promote a smoother flow of traffic. These methods are a great start, but what about noise from airports, construction or even just a loud neighbor? How can we protect our sleeping environment from unpredictable - and uncontrollable - noise pollution? Thankfully there are products available that are designed to isolate sound and prevent penetration into the home or office. Simple things, like using spray foam insulation. It fills every tiny nook and cranny around doors, windows, in wall cavities and electrical outlets. By filling the crevices the vibration is buffered, thereby lessening the impact of noise.

Excess noise can have a significant impact on your physical and psychological health. Exposure to stressors in our daily lives is harmful enough, but when a quiet restful haven for mental rejuvenation is absent, well then our health begins to slowly break down. Prolong your life through preventing noise pollution in your home.

Author's Bio: 

Mark Munns is a representative of Spray Foam Direct. Spray foam insulation can save you money and energy. We offer the added benefits of reducing our carbon footprint by offering foam it green solutions and balancing their impact through carbon reproduction projects. Visit us online today for more information or check out one of our DIY videos!