Unwanted, unexpected and unpleasant: 5 ways noise pollution harms your health

Sound pollution has multiple effects on human health from ear problems, to cognitive impairment in children and increasing the risk of heart disease, among others.

Myupchar October 25, 2019 12:57:27 IST
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Unwanted, unexpected and unpleasant: 5 ways noise pollution harms your health
  • Sound pollution has multiple effects on human health from ear problems, to cognitive impairment in children and increasing the risk of heart disease

  • According to the WHO, excessive noise can cause stress and anxiety

  • Exposure to noise pollution can also lead to aggressive behaviour in humans

You’re done with Diwali shopping and gifting. Just as you’re about to relax with a hot cup of tea in your favourite chair in the study, a loud cracker goes off, spoiling your calm for the evening. What do you do next?

Take comfort in the knowledge that you’re not alone, and read on.

Green crackers

The festival of lights is traditionally associated with bursting crackers, too. Though nationwide campaigns to reduce this practice have worked to an extent, they haven’t yet convinced everyone to give up the boom, crackle and sizzle of fireworks.

Unwanted unexpected and unpleasant 5 ways noise pollution harms your health

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

Last Saturday, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan launched “green” crackers developed by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research as a substitute to crackers that contain a lot of barium nitrate. These crackers are said to emit 30% less particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, among other air pollutants.

The minister didn’t, however, say, anything about the effects of green crackers on sound pollution.

Six health effects

According to the World Health Organization, sound pollution has multiple effects on human health from ear problems such as tinnitus, to sleep disturbances and cognitive impairment in children, and increasing the risk of heart disease and stress-induced mental health conditions. Here’s a look at some of these conditions:

  • Hearing loss: Ever heard of a person losing their hearing at a live music concert? It can happen if they’re suddenly exposed to sounds over 120 decibels (dB), like if they’re standing too close to a speaker. The human ear can pick up sounds from zero to 130db. Yet, anything over 90db is considered harmful to the ears. To be sure, India has rules on the permissible levels of noise. Yet these are commonly flouted at Diwali time - the “sutli” bomb can produce up to 106db of sound.
  • Tinnitus: A ringing or buzzing sensation in the ear.
  • Mental disturbances: According to the WHO, excessive noise can cause stress and anxiety. Data show that children who live close to airports — that tend to produce high levels of noise — have poorer attention spans and start reading later in life.
  • Sleep disturbances: The human ear never rests. It is sensitive enough to catch sounds even while you sleep. Scientists say that the noise perceived by the brain during sleep is more harmful than that heard during waking hours. Restless or disturbed sleep can lead to fatigue and impaired memory.
  • Heart issues: Continuous noise evokes the body’s stress response. As a result, the heart rate increases, as does the blood pressure - eventually increasing our risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Aggressive behaviour: Exposure to noise pollution can also lead to aggressive behaviour in humans. This might even progress into verbal or physical altercations. 

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Tinnitus: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment.

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