What do airplanes, boom boxes and jack-hammers have in common? They are all sources of noise pollution. Noise pollution has been defined as “undesired sound that is disruptive or dangerous and can cause harm to life, nature, and property.”
Types of noise pollution.
Whether a noise is just loud or rises to the level of pollution depends on the intensity of the noise, how long it lasts and whether it is high or low pitched. Sudden, loud noises can actually harm the eardrum. Ambient noise, which is constant background noise, damages the middle ear. Psychological damage is caused by both kinds of noise.
White noise, which is like static on a radio or television, can be extremely irritating. It may be surprising to know that it actually causes less permanent damage than other types of noise.
Damage to humans.
In addition to expected hearing loss, humans suffer from a number of problems as a result of noise pollution. Specific problems of children include:
•Delayed language development.
•Slowed development of reading skills.
•Impaired reading comprehension.
•Decreased motivation in general.
Some people think that when the noise stops, the effects of the noise also stop. That is not true. The damages of noise pollution are long-lasting if not permanent. Here is only a partial list of on-going problems.
•Increased blood pressure.
•Decreased resistance to disease.
•Permanent ringing sound in the ears.
Damage to animals.
Animals are also damaged by noise pollution. They suffer from the same types of damage as humans do. In addition, noise pollution can interfere with breeding and feeding practices of wild animals as well as in pets and livestock. Noise pollution disrupts animals’ navigation instincts and makes it difficult for them to be aware of predators.
Marine mammals that were subjected to loud underwater sonar have gotten off track, beached themselves and died. Birds living in areas where noise is rampant in the day time but absent at night change their singing patterns and sing at night when it is quiet.
Some cities have ordinances to control sound levels. Some states have enacted statutes requiring common “noise-makers” to do everything possible to reduce the noise. Federal laws regulate noise levels of airplanes and highway noise. But noise pollution still exists and animals and humans continue to suffer.