Understanding Pollution: Noise Causing Havoc in Our Health and Environment

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Pollution is “the action or process of making land, water, air, etc., dirty and not safe or suitable for use.”[i]  Most people are familiar with the more common forms of pollution like air and water.  However, there are less well known types of pollution, and one of the most damaging is noise pollution.  No, noise pollution does not mean that the noise is polluted; that would not make sense, but noise can be the pollutant.  Noise pollution is defined as “loud or unpleasant noise that is caused by automobiles, airplanes, etc., and that is harmful or annoying to the people who can hear it.”[ii] Noise pollution can cause serious health problems.  It wreaks massive havoc on wildlife, especially marine wildlife, and other animals who survive through their hearing.  The biggest problem with noise pollution is that it doesn’t have one single cause, but a myriad of causes.

noise pollution 1

There is a very subtle difference between sound and noise.  Sound is anything and everything that we hear every day.  Noise is a sound that is unwanted and irritating to us.[iii] Studies have shown that exposure to noise pollution causes disturbances in your sleep pattern.[iv]  Now, you may be thinking, “Tell me something I don’t know.”  Ok.  As noise pollution disrupts your sleep it can cause hypertension (high-blood pressure), an increased risk of other cardiovascular ailments, a drop in energy levels and performance, nausea, headaches, and changes in mood and stress levels.[v]   Sleep is one of the most essential bodily functions that we perform, and if sleep is disrupted not once, but many times it causes our body to drop in functionality.  Has your neighbor ever held a really loud party that you weren’t invited to?  You probably didn’t sleep very well that night, and were a little irritable the next day.  But since it’s your neighbor, and it was only once you didn’t say anything.  After a good night’s sleep you forgot about it.  Well, imagine if your neighbor had a really loud party every night for a week.  You’d probably call the cops by day 3 or 4.  You would become more and more irritated, stressed out, and tired.  The dangerous thing about noise pollution is that we get used to certain kinds of noise. We still hear them and they still affect us but our brain blocks them out – such as AC buzz, or traffic, if you live in an urban area.[vi]

noise pollution 2

Noise pollution’s effects are more visible on the environment than in humans.  Most animals have had to develop better hearing than humans as a purely survival mechanism.[vii]  Noise pollution can lead to hearing loss in entire populations of animals which makes them easy prey for predators.[viii]  This leads to dwindling populations, and as most people know, you can’t expect to change just one thing and not see a domino effect.  Noise pollution also leads to changes in animal behavior.  In several cities it has been documented that birds have begun singing at night.  Why?  Because birds use their voices to attract mates, mark their territory, and warn off predators.[ix]  The birds are singing at night because their voices cannot be heard over the din of city life during the day.  Which goes to show that we have only ourselves to blame for that irritating bird singing outside our windows.  Noise pollutions effects in the ocean are even more visible.  We have the sounds from military naval drills, underwater oil exploration, commercial shipping and fishing all causing noise that is effecting the marine ecosystems.[x]  Most marine wildlife, even more so than land animals, rely on their hearing in order to survive.  Many marine animals use hearing to find their way, and communicate with other group members.[xi]  Noise pollution in the oceans have become so bad that the United States in 2010 began a project to map all noise in the world’s oceans to try and determine how much of an effect human made noise is having on marine wildlife.  [xii]

There are entirely too many causes of noise pollution to list them all.  Sources of noise pollution can range from televisions with a surround sound system, to vacuum cleaners and blenders, to industrial plants and shipping yards.  Noise pollution is without a doubt the form of pollution that is entirely manmade.  One of the most obvious forms of noise pollution is industrialization.[xiii]  As mankind has advanced more and more technologically we are creating bigger and more powerful machines to do work for us.  There’s nothing wrong with advancement, but it can be very loud.  Even something as simple as an iPod can cause noise pollution.  Did you ever notice when you’re blasting music on your headphones that a message will come warning about the effects of loud music on hearing?  Or if you’re ever in an elevator, and you can hear the music the person next to you is listening to.  All of these things are noise pollution.  There are a myriad of causes, and all of them have effects on both humanity and the environment that we call home.

noise pollution 3

Noise pollution is a problem that we deal with every day. Whether you live in the big city, or the picturesque countryside you both deal and contribute to noise pollution every day.  Even I am guilty of it as I sit here typing this while blasting music on my phone.  Noise pollution is something that most people ignore, because it is not something that we can see the effects of easily.  We can only feel, and hear them.  This does not mean that we have no responsibility to deal with noise pollution.  Everything has consequences, as much as we´d like to believe we have nothing to do with what´s happening in animal world, and though we may wish to ignore those consequences all that does is make the problem worse.  We may not care that whales and birds are changing their habits because of noise pollution, but we will when those animals begin to impact us.  What happens when birds begin dying off because they can’t hear predators coming?  Without knowing what impact birds have on an ecosystem that is a difficult question to answer.  Everything has consequences, and we will deal with those consequences either now, or in the future.  If we choose, and it is a choice, to deal with them in the future then we will be dealing with an even greater problem.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Pollution.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pollution&gt;.

[ii] “Noise Pollution.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/noise pollution>.

[iii] “What Is Noise Pollution for Children.” What Is Noise Pollution for Children. Eschool Today. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://eschooltoday.com/pollution/noise-pollution/what-is-noise-pollution.html&gt;.

[iv] Stansfield, Stephen, and Mark Matheson. “Noise Pollution: Non-auditory Effects on Health.”Kensingtonassociation.org. University of London. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.kensingtonassociation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Noise Pollution_non-auditory effects on health.pdf>.

[v] Stansfield, Stephen, and Mark Matheson. “Noise Pollution: Non-auditory Effects on Health.”Kensingtonassociation.org. University of London. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.kensingtonassociation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Noise Pollution_non-auditory effects on health.pdf>.

[vi] “Hear Listen. Are Noises Keeping You Awake?” Http://sleepfoundation.org/. National Sleep Foundation. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/hear.php&gt;.

[vii] “Understanding Noise Pollution.” .conserve-energy-future.com. Conserve Energy Future. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-noise-pollution.php&gt;.

[viii] “Understanding Noise Pollution.” .conserve-energy-future.com. Conserve Energy Future. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-noise-pollution.php&gt;.

[ix] “Effects of Noise.” NPS: Explore Nature » Natural Sounds » Noise Pollution ». National Park Services. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nature.nps.gov/sound/effects.cfm&gt;.

[x] Broad, William. “A Rising Tide of Noise Is Now Easy to See.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 10 Dec. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/11/science/project-seeks-to-map-and-reduce-ocean-noise-pollution.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&gt;.

[xi] Weilgart, Linda. “The Impact of Ocean Noise Pollution on Marine Biodiversity.”Awionline.org. International Ocean Noise Coalition. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <https://awionline.org/sites/default/files/uploads/legacy-uploads/documents/Weilgart_Biodiversity_2008-1238105851-10133.pdf&gt;.

[xii] Broad, William. “A Rising Tide of Noise Is Now Easy to See.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 10 Dec. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/11/science/project-seeks-to-map-and-reduce-ocean-noise-pollution.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&gt;.

[xiii] “Understanding Noise Pollution.” .conserve-energy-future.com. Conserve Energy Future. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-noise-pollution.php&gt;.

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