Doctors today claim that noise is responsible for one out of three neuroses. . . . Excessive street noise (as well as in the home) is the cause of 80% of headaches and 52% of memory problems. . . . The ‘341st suicide of the Eiffel Tower’ was a victim of a nervous breakdown provoked by the radio of his neighbors.” So reports Perspectives de La Presse of Montreal, Canada.
Here are some other findings that may startle you.
Hearing: A study of 70 persons in their 20’s who work in discotheques reveals that one third of them suffer from high-frequency hearing loss.
Normally, less than 1 percent of people in their age group suffer such losses.
Another test shows that about 30 out of 40 firemen who have been on the force for ten years or more have significantly impaired hearing.
The sirens do it.
A conservative estimate is that 16 million Americans already have suffered hearing loss due to noise, and millions more are on their way.
Study and Work: One thousand second to sixth graders in a school near an elevated train were observed for six years.
Children in classrooms nearest the tracks showed a marked decline in reading ability.
When engineers worked to reduce the noise level and the school put up acoustic ceilings, the reading problem disappeared.
In an office experiment, a reduction in noise resulted in 29 percent fewer typing errors and 9 percent greater productivity.
Blood Pressure: A doctor in Berlin asked workers in a noisy bottling factory to work one week wearing earmuffs and one week without them. The result?
Workers without ear protection showed an increase in blood pressure.
According to the doctor, “exposure to chronic noise levels can not only cause high blood pressure but also heart damage.”
Sleep: Even if the noise is not loud enough to wake you up, it may still rob you of needed rest.
Studies of brain waves show that noise disrupts one’s sleep and dream pattern and leaves one in a sort of ‘suspended animation.’
The Unborn: In a three-year study of 225,000 births in an area around the busy Los Angeles International Airport, it was found that the birth-defect rate was much higher than among those born in the rest of the county.
Defects included cleft palates, harelips, spinal defects and absence of a brain, and some babies had more than ten fingers or toes.
Similarly, a high rate of stillbirths was reported in the vicinity of London’s Heathrow Airport, and many underweight babies have been born around Osaka Airport in Japan. Is that all merely coincidental?
Besides the serious physical effects, noise seems to make people less kind or willing to help, more prone to have family problems, and more irritable and nervous.
What Can You Do About It?
A common mistake that many people make is feeling that they can get used to the noise.
The problem is that it is usually too late when one becomes aware of any harm done. “You may forgive the noise,” says a noted New York ear specialist, “but your system won’t forgive you.”
For protection, you need to be aware of both the intensity of the noise and the length of time you are exposed to it.
The louder the noise the less time it takes for damage to result.
Noise level is measured in decibels, and studies show that eight hours a day of 75-decibel noise, the equivalent of noise at a busy street intersection, is about all that one can take without lasting harmful results.
In many areas, government standards for work environments allow an average of eight hours a day of 90-decibel noise, at which level you have to shout to be heard at arm’s length.
If you work in such a place and it appears unlikely that things will improve, you might consider protecting your ears with earmuffs or plugs.
After working all day in a noisy place, do you get relief when you come home?
While there is little you can do to lessen noise outside your home, you can take steps to keep much of it out.
Caulking any seams, cracks, vents and holes, weather-stripping around doors and windows, and installing double-pane windows will help to bring noise down to an acceptable level.
Using an air conditioner may allow you to keep the windows shut in the summer when street noise is at its peak, but even an average air conditioner makes its own contribution of 50 decibels or more.
Carpeting, upholstered furniture, adequate draperies and wall covering or decorations will help to absorb the noise that does get in.
Most noise at home, however, comes from within, and a little thought and thoughtfulness can go a long way in containing it.
The kitchen, for example, with its appliances and clean-scrubbed reflective surfaces, is usually the noisiest place in a home.
Washable carpets, acoustic ceiling and fabric wall covering help bring down the decibels.
As for appliances, many products on the market now are noise rated. Check and compare when you shop.
Television and stereo sets are potential noise makers.
Bear in mind that what in your ears is sweet music, in other ears may be just noise—unwanted sound.
The obvious answer is to turn down the volume control.
It will also help to confine the sound to your own quarters if your loudspeakers are placed on cork or neoprene pads and away from walls adjoining your neighbors.
Not to be overlooked is people noise—loud talking, yelling of and at the children, door slamming, and so forth.
Thoughtfulness is the key in this area.
A baby in its mother’s womb is particularly susceptible to being traumatized by any loud noises to which its mother is exposed.
Since a mother’s abdominal wall and amniotic fluid offer very little protection from outside noises, a child may be handicapped before birth.
For example, the risk of high-frequency hearing loss is three times greater among children whose mothers were exposed to noise levels between 85 and 95 decibels—levels quite common for many rock concerts and discotheques.
In addition to causing hearing damage, some researchers warn, frequent exposure to loud noises, especially during the mother’s last months of pregnancy, can also increase an unborn baby’s heart rate