1. Tinnitus and hearing loss.
Arguably the most common consequence to long stretches of exposure to noise is tinnitus, usually described as a ringing sound within the ear although in some people the sound can be a high-pitched whining, buzzing, hissing, ticking, clicking or roaring. It can take the form of a sound like crickets or tree frogs chirping, beeping, sizzling, sounds that slightly resemble human voices, or even a pure steady tone similar to a tone heard during a hearing test. Tinnitus can be continuous, or it can come and go, and it can cause a lot of distress.
According to WHO, exposure to noise above 55 decibels for long periods of time – more than eight hours daily – can be problematic. Exposure to decibel levels above 85 for eight hours or longer can result in serious hearing damage. A large truck lumbering down a freeway is what 85 decibels sound like. Live rock concerts easily spike over 100 decibels, and are notorious for their after-effects, which can include a ringing in the ears or even temporary hearing loss, depending on the decibel levels, proximity to speakers and length of the concert. When you leave the concert and the tingling in your ears never goes away, you’ve developed tinnitus.
2. Lowered productivity.
Researchers have found that noise pollution has the life-changing effect of reducing cognitive function. In school children, this means delayed learning, stunted reading skills, high rates of distraction, lowered information retention skills and academic performance. For businesses, noise related declines in productivity are expensive, and the impact on businesses is believed to be in the billions of dollars. Adults whose productivity is diminished because of noise pollution experience stunted problem-solving skills, work performance and drive.
3. Decreased communication skills.
Prolonged exposure to noise reduces our ability to communicate effectively. In addition to losing the ability to concentrate for long periods of time, people who have been affected by noise pollution are more readily susceptible to stress, confusion, indecision, faltering speech and impatience.
4. Sleep disorders.
Chronic exposure to high noise levels can interfere with sleep and eventually lead to insomnia, a medical condition that can lead to other health problems. Depression, emotional strain, aggressiveness, and antisocial behavior are just a few of the side effects of noise-induced sleep deprivation. Any time the body’s natural sleep cycle is obstructed, it becomes a health risk that can lead to serious mental and physical illnesses including an increased risk of heart attack.
5. Heart arrhythmia.
Exposure to excessive noise can cause stress and exacerbate cardiovascular disease. It can lead to an elevated heart rate, hypertension, and inappropriate triggers of the brain chemicals that give us our “flight-or-fight” response, which nature meant to alert us to imminent life-or-death danger. When noise is causing false triggers of these chemicals, it takes a toll on the heart and nervous system.
6. Exacerbates psychiatric disorders.
Although medical researchers say that noise does not cause psychiatric disorders, people suffering from a psychiatric condition may find their symptoms worsened by exposure to high noise levels. Those suffering from mental illness experience heightened anxiety, phobias, aggressive behavior, stress, mood swings, and antisocial behavior. On medically weakened patients, particularly children and the elderly, the repercussions of exposure to noise can interfere with healing and weaken their ability to cope.
7. Triggers Negative Emotions.
Clinical studies have shown time and again that low frequency noise – noise from amplified music, pumps, fans, boilers, electrical installations, ventilation systems, and other sources – can conjure extremely negative emotions in some people. Symptoms can include aggression, fatigue, unhappiness, despair, anxiety and distraction, which can influence the everyday behavior of those exposed for long periods of time. Antisocial behaviors such as door slamming and avoiding neighbors or friends can be the result of chronic exposure to low frequency noise.
As more people become familiar with the obvious and subtle damage noise pollution can have on their physical and mental well-being, the expectation is that more individuals will take steps to eliminate or block excessive noise from their environments, for their own well-being and the well-being of loved ones.