How Noise Affects Your Health

Chronic loud noise is more than an annoyance. Living under a flight path or near a freeway significantly raises your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, according to a ground-breaking article published in the New York Times:

When researchers analyzed the brain scans and health records of hundreds of people at Massachusetts General Hospital, they made a stunning discovery: Those who lived in areas with high levels of transportation noise were more likely to have highly activated amygdalas, arterial inflammation and — within five years — major cardiac events.

How does noise affect your body?

When you hear a loud, unpleasant noise, it activates the alarm response in your nervous system, causing the sympathetic nervous system to raise your heart rate and blood pressure, slow your digestion, and raise the number of inflammatory cells in your blood. Your endocrine system floods your bloodstream with cortisol and adrenaline.

If these loud noises happen frequently over time, your nervous system settles into a state of chronic high alert. Wear and tear on your cardiovascular system starts to show–as arterial plaque, heightened inflammation, and hypertension. This increases your chances for heart attacks and strokes.

When highly sensitive people complain about ambient noise, we may seem picky and over-reactive. But whether or not we consciously react to noise, it affects our health in measurable ways.

A Systemic Problem

Fifty years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency drew attention to the problem of noise pollution, and issued recommendations for mitigating noise around residential areas. But after the Reagan Administration defunded the program, controls on industrial noise in the U.S. evaporated.

The European Union regulates noise to a much greater degree. Member countries evaluate noise every five years, and mandate controls like quiet brake locks on railways, noise mitigation at airports, and noise reduction in car manufacturing.

What If You Can’t Move?

What if you live near a railway crossing, in a flight path, or next to a freeway? Should you move?

If possible, YES.

If you can’t move to a quieter area, here are some ways to shield yourself from noise:

  • Install triple-pane windows and extra insulation on walls opposite noisy areas.
  • Install acoustic panelling on walls and ceilings.
  • Buffer floors with thick rug pads under area rugs.
  • Use white noise machines in offices and bedrooms.
  • Sleep with ear plugs, and wear noise-canceling headphones during the day.

For an assessment of noise levels in your home or office, and recommendations for mitigation strategies, book a consultation with us.

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