Too much noise can kill you, but silence can drive you mad. How much noise is too much?

SeekerPublished: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018
Published: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018

Humans process noise as a stressor. Noise stress triggers all the bodily responses that any stress would and does real damage over time. There was a 1975 landmark study with students in schools that found children in schools close to train tracks had lower reading scores than those at schools not near train tracks. Also, elementary school kids on lower floors closer to noise also showed greater impairment. In response, the Board of Education added soundproofing; and adjusted their building of schools near noisy tracks. A follow up study showed huge improvements.

Noise can mess with humans: communication difficulties, teacher and pupil frustration, reduced morale, impaired attention, increased arousal − which influences task performance, and sleep disturbance from home exposure which might cause performance effects the next day. Unfortunately, noise pollution is on the rise. In the developed world, exposure to day-to-day “social noise” - omnipresent music, cafe chatter, etc - has tripled in the past 30 years. According to the United Nations 84 percent of the planet's humans will live in urban areas by 2100 -- there will probably be well-over 10 billion of us by then.

And the WHO lists noise pollution as the number one environmental nuisance in developed countries. But regulation at the national level is spotty at best, and most causes of noise pollution are here to stay. Neel Patel from Futurism states that traffic is a huge contributor to noise pollution, and regulation is lacking. Noise can cause sleep quality impairment. It is also related related to elevated levels of annoyance — which causes irritability and unhappiness. We need improvements, and time will continue to tell the negative effects of noise.

Special thanks to Mike Rugnetta for his help with this episode! Check out Reasonably Sound at or on Apple Podcasts.

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