Pollution is a big deal. Factories, heavy chemicals used for conventional agriculture, single-use plastics, and the exhaust emitted by fuel-burning engines all contribute to the negative impact on our environment. This type of environmental pollution also affects our health due to the deteriorating quality of the air we breathe in.
These are all big problems that get plenty of attention and media coverage. But what about noise pollution? Is the rising noise level of our surroundings just a nuisance, or is this something we should be paying more attention to?
According to scientists at the University of Michigan, more than 100 million Americans live with an average noise level exposure louder than about 70 decibels, which is what you would hear if you were standing next to a washing machine or dishwasher. Keep in mind that the figure is the average noise level in 24 hours, meaning that significant time throughout the day is spent above 70 decibels.
Additionally, tens of millions of Americans suffer from a range of adverse health outcomes due to noise exposure, including heart disease and hearing loss. You may wonder how noise exposure may lead to heart disease. If you combine the constant stress of elevated noise levels with the Standard American Diet, you get the perfect one-two punch for heart disease.
The best solutions to lowering hormonal stress response include reducing noise pollution
Our brains are wired to associate loud noises with danger. For thousands of years, humans lived away from busy, noisy streets. We lived in nature, where things were mostly quiet, and a loud noise meant predator attack, war, or dangerous weather. There were no boomboxes, sirens, or honking cars when we were hunter-gatherers.
Today, our body is still designed to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline in response to loud noises. The only difference is that now loud noises are everywhere. We may not even notice it, but each horn honking in traffic, every construction drill, and even the loud music coming through our headphones is causing a hormone release that is designed to put us in a state of fight or flight.
Back in the day, that hormone response could save our life. Today, it is just adding drops into the stress bucket we carry around with us each day. And when that bucket gets full, that is when we start dealing with some severe health problems.
Research shows that for every 10-decibel increase in average noise levels in a neighborhood, anti-anxiety medication will see a corresponding rise of 28%.
The key takeaway? Whether you are a parent or not, seeking silence is a good strategy for anyone looking to optimize their long-term health. If you live in a big city, that can be challenging; but even the volume you use on your headphones can make a big difference over time.
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