Noise pollution (also noise disturbance, sound pollution) refers to the unwanted sound that can disrupt the human health and life.
Noise pollution can be defined as excess noise in the atmosphere that is harmful to people or animals around.
People suffer from noise pollution when the sound becomes intolerable for human-beings and animals. We are living in an age when the entire environment is suffering with noise pollution.The use of machines, vehicles, and other mechanical devices that are widely prevalent in modern age contributes to Noise pollution.
A given sound may be Music to one person’s ears but noise to another’s. Sound is measured by a unit called the ‘Decibel’. It is a logarithmic expression of noise intensity. We start feeling discomfort at about 120dB (decibel) and pain at about 140dB.
Of course, noise pollution is dependent on the context. A loud noise in a completely deserted wasteland with no-one to hear it is not noise pollution because it is not harming anybody.
However, a loud noise in a quiet residential area which keeps everyone awake at night does count as noise pollution. This is because it is clearly a case of excess noise that is harmful to people in the vicinity.
The primary sources of unwanted sound or noise are as follows:
- Factory and Industries,
- Vehicles for transportation of people and goods,
- Household activities.
- Excessive use of loudspeakers and microphones,
- Sound producing fireworks,
- Recreational activities like music or bursting of crackers etc.
All the above factors are responsible for noise pollution. The above points show that though there are different sources of noise pollution, however many of them are related to modern industry.
A key source of noise pollution comes from the transport industry, for example. Trains, aeroplanes and cars can all cause high levels of noise that are stressful to people who live and work nearby.
Other source of noise pollution might include factory machinery, and the loud voices of people who do not respect the other people around them.
Also read: Major Sources of Noise Pollution
Consequences of Noise Pollution
Each form of source has a number of detrimental consequences. The details are given below:
On physical health: One of the most visible effects of noise is deafness. ‘Deafness’ is a hearing defect recognized by the patient or his relatives. Only when hearing defects are detectable by the audiometer or other means, the term loss of hearing is used.
Loss of hearing is of two types, temporary or permanent. It depends upon the magnitude and duration of noise to which a person has been exposed.
At very high noise levels (150dB) immediate and permanent hearing damage can be caused. At lower noise levels (100dB) nausea and loss of physical control are noticed. These effects cease after stopping the noise, although in some cases there is a time delay.
When it occurs at night, noise pollution can cause insomnia, or the inability to get a good night’s sleep. This can impact very negatively on the physical health as well.
On Mental health: Noise pollution can cause high levels of stress in the people who have to endure it. It can also make animals (including farm animals and domestic animals) stressed as well. Temporary effects such as lack of concentration are noticed. Noise causes irritation which leads to learning disabilities. Perhaps this may be the reason that our sages always selected places for meditation away from localities, free from noise.
Industrial accidents: As noise interferes with normal auditory communication, it may hamper auditory warning especially in industries.
Make an area less desirable: Noise pollution can also, in general, make an area less desirable for people to live and work in. In this way, noise pollution from industry can change the shape of towns and cities, causing them to sprawl outwards as people try to escape the excessive noise.
Other effects: Noise may cause constriction of the peripheral blood vessels, increase blood supply to the brain or cause changes in the breathing rate, pulse rate and blood pressure.
The basis for any viable noise control and remedial program is an appreciation of its importance and a commitment to undertake a continuing noise abatement effort.
Legal policies can be put in place that require both residents and commercial and industrial building owners to limit the amount of noise that they make. Noise can be limited to certain levels and/ or it can be limited to certain times of day.
Greenbelt vegetation and open spaces at regular intervals within densely populated areas of big towns must be developed. A 20 feet wide plantation strip inside the compound wall effectively protects the houses from noise pollution due to vehicular traffic. Local authorities can ensure that cities and towns are designed so that residential areas are situated far away from noisy industrial areas or areas in the flight path of large numbers of planes.
Noise muffling devices can be used on machinery – or people can resolve to cut back on aviation and other industries entirely.
Site location: In industries, if new production facilities are built, the site location and architectural design of the plant must be given careful consideration from an acoustic point of view. Where these industries are also responsible for burning large amounts of harmful fossil fuels, this can be beneficial for the environment as well as reducing sound pollution levels.
Rooms may be designed with heavy glass partitions so that visual contact can be maintained with noisy equipment that does not require frequent servicing.
Personal ear protectors should be used. They are capable of reducing the noise levels at the ear by 10 to 45 dB and also improve speech communication.
Noise pollution, sound pollution – whatever you want to call it, it can have a very negative psychological impact on both human beings and animals. It is vital that we are all considerate towards each other and do our best to limit the noise pollution that we cause. If you are experiencing high levels of noise pollution in your area, then it is a good idea to get in touch with your local authority to see if they can help you with it.
Edited with the help of an article on ‘Noise Pollution’ contributed by Laura.