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Many of us love that comforting feeling of pulling into our own neighborhood and driveway after a long or exhausting day. Our homes are our safe-havens, the place we go to rest, relax, and restore.
Did you know that noise pollution can exist in your very own neighborhood or home, and can potentially cause damage to your hearing? Is your home a safe haven for your hearing? If not, what can you do about it?
What is Noise Pollution?
Noise is inescapable. Even when we sleep and our other senses, such as sight, get a rest, our ears are always on. Otherwise, how would we wake up to our alarm clocks? Because we are constantly using our hearing, noise pollution in our environment can become an issue. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines noise pollution as “unwanted or disturbing sound”. The EPA goes on to explain that “sound becomes unwanted when it either interferes with normal activities such as sleeping, conversation, or disrupts or diminishes one’s quality of life”.
With this definition in mind, it is simple to understand how neighborhood sounds such as construction, traffic, or even your teenaged neighbor’s garage band can easily be defined as noise pollution.
Why Does Noise Pollution Matter?
Besides just being annoying, noise pollution can be problematic to your health. Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is the most commonly discussed health concern with noise pollution. NIHL is permanent and irreversible hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises, either in one burst such as an airplane takeoff or in less extreme exposure over a longer period of time. One can experience NIHL when exposed to sounds at just 85 decibels for a prolonged period of time, while sounds from 120-140 decibels can cause pain in the ears and even NIHL during after just one exposure.
According to the EPA, there are also many other health issues linked with hearing loss, such as lost productivity, sleep disturbances, high blood pressure and stress related illnesses.
Yikes. How Loud is my Neighborhood?
Compare your neighborhood and home to these commonly heard sounds, to get an idea of how loud your living space is.
- Power mower – 92 decibels
- Police Sirens – 118 decibels
- Air Conditioning Unit – 60 decibels
- Car without a muffler – 115 decibels
- Vacuum Cleaner – 74 decibels
- Heavy Street Traffic – 80 decibels
- Hammering Nails into Wood – 131 decibels
- Operating a Jackhammer – 105 decibels
These decibel levels are just estimates to give you an idea of the noises you may find in your house and neighborhood. You may be wondering just how to protect yourself from noise pollution. There are many helpful lists online to help you get an idea of noise exposure of certain daily activities. This handy chart focuses on noise levels of activities commonly done in and around the home.
There are also helpful smartphone apps that can be downloaded that quickly determine the decibel level of the sounds around you.
My Neighborhood is Loud. What Can I Do?
There are ways you can protect yourself and your family from noise pollution without hunkering down in the basement with noise cancelling headphones! A good first step is to set your own home up for success. Fix any gates or garage doors that are extremely loud or creaky. You can also build a fence around your yard and plant lots of vegetation to block out sounds. A small fountain in the garden might be a good way to create some calming white noise outside your home. Carpet, linoleum and drapes all do very good job at absorbing and minimizing sounds. Placing foam or vibration mounts under your large appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators will help to keep noise pollution down.
If you’ve done what you can to protect your home from noise pollution and still feel your neighborhood is too noisy, consider talking to your neighborhood association about the problem. The issue of noise pollution is still relatively unknown to many in the public, and a little bit of information might motivate your association to begin taking protective measures.
You can also reach out to your local municipal and city government for assistance. Many cities have noise pollution ordinances, such as “quiet hours” when noise pollution is not permitted.
For more information on NIHL, contact us at Atlanta Hearing Doctor today.