Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Noise Pollution: Can you hear it?

When was the last time you heard a cell phone go off? What about a car with bass you could feel? How would you feel if these weren't just annoying, but were actually impacting your health?

Many people assume that yes, noise can cause deafness due to extended exposure, but what about coronary artery disease? High blood pressure? Ulcers? (See a more complete list of health problems here)

Noise has long been esteemed as the bane of true intelligence. Arthur Schopenhauer stated, "The amount of noise which anyone can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity, and may therefore be regarded as a pretty fair measure of it... Noise is a torture to all intellectual people." Kurt Vonnegut used loud noise as a means of repressing high-level thought in his short story Harrison Bergeron.

Noise is a devastating force, and we're just getting used to it.

That may not last much longer. Research performed in 1970 by James L. Hildebrand* predicted that noise levels could eventually become lethal. Currently, exposure to city traffic noise damages hearing after only 8 hours of exposure. That's bad news for anyone who has a commute to work. The more time you spend in the noisy, bustling world, the more at risk you become to the problems associated with noise pollution.

Now, no one is suggesting you lock yourself in a soundproofed room and meditate--although if you meditate, you might want to lock yourself away to escape the noise. You may need to soundproof your home first, but in the long run, that may be worth serious consideration.

The news isn't all bad though. There are a plethora of programs and businesses out there to reduce noise, and you can help promote them. Participate in city council discussions, write to your local and regional authorities. Help identify ways to build a healthier, happier, and safer community by cutting down the noise.

*Noise Pollution: An Introduction to the Problem and an Outline for Future Legal Research, Columbia Law Review