I have a neighbour with a wind chime. It’s so loud it wakes me up in the night. I mentioned it to a friend the other day, and she said, ‘Oh, you’ll get used to it’. I wondered about that, and I also wondered why I should have to get used to it. But that’s another issue.
In all the discussions I’ve read lately about wellness living, I don’t think I’ve read once about noise and the effect it has on wellness. So I started to do some digging.
First of all, let’s define noise. I think it’s rather like weeds. Weeds are plants growing where you don’t want them to grow. Noise, to me, is sound where it’s not wanted.
Snoring is noise. I think most of us agree on that. And loud trucks are noise. And thunderous bass in a car stereo driving by is noise to most of us. Workplaces are full of noise.
But how about the wind chime? Or the air conditioner outside the neighbours’ house? Or living beside five trains a day? How do these noises impact us? Or do they once we get used to them?
In short, these noises do impact our mental and physical health. And while we can train our brain to filter out the noise and not consciously recognize it as an intrusion, the physical damage that noise is doing does not stop just because we don’t ‘hear’ it. It impacts our sleep, blood pressure, increases the possibility of heart disease and contributes to stress sensitivity.
This one stat jumped out at me: Preeclampsia was found to be more common among pregnant women exposed to high levels of noise pollution. (2)
And in children, it can seriously impact learning:
In a school in New York, one side of the school was beside the train tracks. The other side of the school was beside a not-too-busy road. Over several years of testing, the kids on the train side were one YEAR behind the kids on the roadside in tests of math, reading, and language skills. Noise-dampening mats were installed, and the kids caught up quickly.
One parent said:
“Just imagine how great our scores would have been without 15 percent of our kids’ day being interrupted by noise at 90 decibels and higher’.(1)
That’s a fairly dramatic impact of noise.
So, then comes the issue of what to do about the noise. If you can’t eliminate the noise, you can reduce the impact some.
In a home, the use of sound-dampening wall covering and drapery helps with road noise. Carpets and rugs can reduce the noise in the home, as well as implementing noise control — levels of the TV, the stereo, the old dish-washing machine, the power tools in use in the basement.
Remember that it’s not just each noise that contributes to health issues, it’s the cumulative noise that impacts us. It’s a case of the whole being more significant than the sum.
Setting a quiet time in the home, with all devices turned off, gives the body a chance to rejuvenate; using white noise machines can help — but it’s better to eliminate the noise than camouflage it.
Being conscious of the noise in the environment is an excellent place to start. And don’t forget your plants and your pets. They, too, are impacted by noise. (3)