It’s hard to argue the fact that today’s world is noisier than ever before. Traffic, construction, airplanes and crowds all contribute to the growing decibel level of daily life. Could this be a contributing factor to the increasing number of people diagnosed with hearing loss?
Several decades ago, experts recognized the need to regulate noise in the interest of the public’s hearing health. The Noise Control Act of 1972 was the first step, establishing a national policy to promote a hearing-safe environment for Americans. Unfortunately, progress has been slow, and experts are once again warning of the dangers of noise pollution.
Noise-induced hearing loss is believed to be a major cause of preventable hearing loss, and it is estimated that thirty million people are exposed to dangerous levels of noise daily putting them at risk for hearing loss. One study stated explicitly that “A large portion of the general population is exposed to noise levels that could result in long-term adverse effects on hearing.” What is this noise pollution doing to us and our hearing?
The impact of noise pollution
There is no doubt that noise pollution is growing and not enough is being done to curb it. In fact, many point to European policies as an example of where America should be. While 85 decibels is generally considered safe in the United States, the EU specifies a maximum of 40 dB at night to “protect human health” and a maximum of 50 dB during the day for an extended amount of time.
What is most concerning is that this noise pollution may cause more than just hearing loss. Much recent research is now digging into how environmental noise and hearing loss may affect us both mentally and physically including:
- Negative impact on cardiovascular health
- Increased risk of depression and anxiety
- Increased risk of cognitive decline
- Disrupted sleep which has been linked to many other health conditions
- Negative effect on children’s learning
In one scientific review, researchers “found evidence that long-term exposure to environmental noise affects the cardiovascular system, with connections to hypertension, ischemic heart diseases, and stroke. In addition, numerous studies pointed to associations between environmental noise exposure and sleep disturbance, children’s cognition, and negative effects in hospitals for both patients and staff.”
As researchers and experts continue to explore noise pollution and how it affects us, we may find that the impact of noise pollution on our health and quality of life could be even more significant than many imagine.
Protect your hearing and health
Until noise pollution can be curbed, it’s up to us to protect our hearing and health. Start by scheduling a hearing evaluation to get a baseline of your hearing health. Your hearing health care provider can also provide guidance on protecting your hearing including reducing your noise exposure whenever possible and using hearing protection such as earplugs. They can also work with you manage any hearing loss you may already have and help prevent further damage down the road.
Protect your health from noise pollution. Your mind and body will thank you. Get started by contacting our office to schedule an appointment.