The Not-So-Silent Health Thief
You know that constant noise exposure – especially to loud noises like those you might hear in a factory – can cost you your hearing as you get older.
What you might not realize is that all that noise is taking a toll on your heart health and your happiness, too.
New research is delving into the effects of social noise (like the background music and chatter you hear at a bar), environmental noise (like the drone of traffic outside your bedroom window), and occupational noise (like the hum of machinery running). What researchers have found is that all that noise exposure has long-term consequences.
Constant noise exposure is actually shaving years off your life. It’s impairing your ability to learn. It could even make your next hospital stay last longer.
7 Ways Noise Exposure is Ruining Your Health
The most obvious way that noise exposure affects your health is hearing loss. Losing your hearing has a serious affect on your quality of life. It makes it difficult to understand conversations and can impair your ability to communicate.
Noise-induced hearing loss is hard to treat. There are no surgeries to help, and hearing aids only provide minimal assistance.
Noise exposure harms your health in several other ways, too:
- Psychological stress: Environmental and social noise contribute to higher levels of chronic stress. Researchers have proven that chronic noise exposure triggers the release of stress hormones. That can lead to a hormonal imbalance that causes fatigue and contributes to chronic disease.
- Cognitive Function: Studies have found that noise exposure affects your cognitive function. It makes it difficult to concentrate. It also diminishes your reading comprehension and your long-term memory.
- Sleep Disturbances: While we tend to adapt to common noises and learn to sleep through them, noise exposure lowers your sleep quality, which can have far-reaching affects on your health.
- Heart Disease: While chronic noise exposure does not dramatically increase your risk of heart disease, there is definitely a link. In fact, nearly 3 percent of heart attacks in Germany are attributed to noise-related causes.
- Hypertension: Chronic noise exposure has been shown to raise blood pressure levels, another factor that can have far-reaching affects on your health. The noise of traffic and airplanes will raise your blood pressure, even if you sleep through it.
- Irritability: While irritability may not seem like a serious health issue, it can contribute to your stress levels, which, again, may have long-term consequences for your health, and for your happiness and overall quality of life.
- Respiratory Changes: Noise exposure also changes the way you breathe. It alters your breathing rate and the depth of the breaths you take.
People who live in noisy areas experience more anxiety, see the doctor more, and take more prescription drugs that people in quieter areas. There can be no doubt – noise is bad for your health.
3 Things You Can Do to Save Yourself From Noise Exposure… Even if You Can’t Turn Down the Noise Around You
You have plenty of reason to worry about your noise exposure levels, but what can you do about it? Short of moving to a small town or a cabin in the mountains, noise is just a way of life. Fortunately, you have some options that will help counteract the health damage caused by chronic noise exposure.
Get back to nature: While machine noises and city noises tend to harm your health, nature noises – birds singing, leaves rustling, water rushing – have a therapeutic effect. These types of sounds reduce your stress response and can help bring your hormones back into balance. That can help undo some of the long-term health damage caused by noise stress.
Invest in noise-canceling headphones: Noise-canceling technology has come a long way. You can pick up a decent pair of noise-canceling headphones on Amazon for under $50. Once you have them, make some time each day to put them on and just relax or read in the relative quiet.
Noise-proof your house: Double-paned windows and good insulation can make your home a quiet oasis in a noisy neighborhood. The investment to noise-proof your home isn’t insignificant, but you may easily decide the improvement in your quality of life and your long-term health is worth the cost.
We live in a society that is always on the go. One of the byproducts of that is noise… the noise in our neighborhoods and in our workplaces just seems to go on and on. Unfortunately, it’s taking a toll on your health in multiple ways. But you don’t have to suffer the ill effects of chronic noise exposure. Take these proactive steps to protect yourself and your health.