“If we do not protect the quiet around us, there will always be noise with us.― Craig D. Lounsbrough
STOP the Noise!
Could Noise be ruining your health? When Noise affects sleep, it also affects every aspect of our well-being. Sleep isn’t an option; it’s an absolute necessity. Getting an adequate supply, makes it possible for us to deal with our waking lives. Noises that disrupt that sleep are more than just a nuisance. They take a toll on you physically, psychologically and emotionally—leaving you desperate to STOP the Noise!
The longer you go without sleep, the more severe the effects. But understanding how noise affects health, goes beyond what’s ruining your sleep at night.
Noise doesn’t only bother us when we’re trying to sleep. Aural assaults disrupt our lives all day long. Depending on your level of sensitivity to these noise interferences, you may find it nearly impossible to focus; perform your job well… play nice with others. This is because peace of mind is also a necessity. Without it, it’s easy to become undone; but how do you find peace in the midst of so much noise?
Noise doesn’t only bother us when we are trying to sleep.
Noise and your Physical Health
When our minds are not at peace, our bodies suffer. We all know noise can take a wrecking ball to our ability to concentrate—or get our sleep—but we don’t always think about the physical ramifications. While it’s common knowledge that stress in general is a significant contributor to a number of medical conditions, it might surprise you to know that noise-related stress contributes to some specific health concerns.
The World Health Organization has associated higher blood pressure and fatal heart attacks with a steady exposure to “noise pollution.” These findings resulted from a significant number of epidemiological studies, conducted mainly in Europe.
The same body of research confirmed that chronic noise impairs child development, with potential life-long effects on their ability to learn—but that’s not all. It also impacts their overall health. And, it seems children are more susceptible than adults to environmental clamor. We need to find ways to stop the noise.
Effects of Noise on Children
The above studies suggested noise-exposed children may be less sensitive to speech, even though they experienced no hearing impairment from the noise. Dr Gary Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University proposed this:
“We think one thing that might be going on is that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response of ignoring the noise, but not only do they ignore noise, there’s evidence that they also ignore speech. So not only are they ignoring the stimuli that are harmful, but they’re also ignoring stimuli that they need to pay attention to.” – Dr Gary Evans
It was also noted that students near airports had higher blood pressure levels than children studying in quieter neighborhoods. Additionally, they exhibited physiological stress that was associated with a boost in stress hormones. Elevated blood pressure in childhood is considered a predictor of higher blood pressure later in life. The stress hormones are also concerning as they are linked to adult illnesses including high cholesterol, heart disease and a reduction in disease-fighting immune cells.
Airplane engine noise can exceed 140 decibels (dBs) during takeoff.
According to the CDC, aircraft engines are a major source of noise and can exceed 140 decibels (dBs) during takeoff. Sounds at or above 85 dBA are more likely to damage your hearing over time. Research has shown that exposure to these levels of sound over long periods lead to greater risk of hearing loss.
Noise Stress is harmful to humans
Overall, the studies conclude that noise causes stress and is harmful to humans—even when the noise is produced at levels that do not manifest in any hearing damage. For our peace of mind, we must place a priority on finding effective ways to reduce this stress—the only way to do this is to STOP the noise.
Noise doesn’t have to be LOUD to negatively affect you.
“Noise” doesn’t = LOUD
A noise doesn’t have to be loud to negatively affect you. In the case of environmental noise damage, for instance, it’s more about the chronic long-term exposure to a particular sound that is damaging to health. Generally, though, whether or not you find a sound annoying, depends on how your ear responds to that noise. The ear translates the sound for you based on signals it receives from your brain.
If your brain has interpreted a soundwave as welcome or pleasant, you’ll enjoy the sound—or at least not be bothered by it. If the brain rejects the sound as unwanted, your ear perceives a sound that is disturbing or in some cases downright torturous. When your brain is screaming STOP the NOISE, it’s time to take action.
Your brain tells your ear whether a sound is pleasant or unwanted.
Noise and your Mental Health
How many times have you heard: “That noise is driving me crazy”? Or, “Her voice is like nails on a chalkboard…”? From morning til night, day-in and day-out… sometimes all you can think about is how to stop the NOISE. That can’t be healthy.
It’s important to recognize the effects of these chronic annoyances sooner than later. Brushing them off leaves one open to the cumulative effects of ongoing noise stress. You may think you’re ignoring these irritating noises but you’re not—and they’ll just be back again tomorrow.
Whether it’s the constant chatter of a co-worker, someone’s too-loud (or just annoying) music, a broken car alarm, a blaring car horn, hotel noise or nearby construction… noise invades our personal space and it’s nerve-racking. If you’re going to save your sanity, you’ll need to find ways to stop the NOISE.
Even at home, in what should be your sanctuary, peace & quiet is not always on the menu. The kids and the X-box, the neighbors arguing, a barking dog, the city noise… the snorer in bed next to you. Who could blame you if you lost your grip?
“Noise is an imposition on sanity, and we live in very noisy times.”
Chewing your hair won’t help. Stopping the noise WILL.
NOISE the Movie
About 10 years ago I watched the movie “Noise” with Tim Robbins. Tim’s character, David Owen, has a noise problem. And that problem is the clamoring clatter of Manhattan.
There’s just no reprieve from the constant city noise—and David is reaching a breaking point.
He can’t control the noise, nor ignore it. Worse, he’s so bothered by it, he can’t enjoy his life—he’s constantly distracted by it and it ruins his family time. He can no longer focus on them… because he’s become obsessed with the NOISE. And, you guessed it, he’s not getting much sleep.
Car alarms, boom boxes, jackhammers, car alarms—sirens, car alarms, garbage trucks—and oh yeah… car alarms.
Ultimately, David decides to put the issue with the car alarms to rest… by beating them to death with a baseball bat. Well, the car windshields anyway…
Run-ins with the Law, kicked out by his wife… “Noise” is labeled a dark comedy and I do love humor—but in reality, the torment of constant noise is no laughing matter.
No!se—the Emotional Toll
We’ve often heard of being “paralyzed by fear,” but did you know the same thing can happen from being excessively frustrated? Frustration skews our world view; takes us from positive to negative—suddenly, everything is a problem. This negative spiral can easily become immobilizing.
There are likely to be several stops along the way to completely shutting down and the first will probably be—wait for it…
Frustration skews our world view… Suddenly, everything is a problem.
No real surprise here. Frustration can quickly lead to anger, which typically leads to aggression. Sometimes the person or thing that caused the frustration gets the brunt of the anger. Then again, it may end up being directed toward the first unfortunate soul that happens to cross your path. This of course, does not help your relationships. It’s also psychologically damaging to you.
Most of us know when we’ve crossed the line, and instantly regret it. We feel guilt and sometimes humiliation for “losing it,” and taking our frustration out on others. Letting your frustration run amok is a sure pathway to stress overload. But you don’t have to let noise-induced frustration rule your life—you just need to take action and stop the noise.
There’s really no reason to end up here. We have some tips for dealing with the destructive effects of unmanaged frustration below. For now, though, let’s start dealing with solving the problem… Say NO! to Noise—do it now.
“Yesterday you said Tomorrow.”—Brennan Hodge
The best way to deal with Noise is NOW
Too often, we are the architects of our frustrations—or as my parents used to say, our own worst enemy. We put off dealing with things until the small problem becomes a bigger problem. And sometimes we allow the now monstrous problem, to consume our thoughts and dictate our behaviors. Don’t wait to start protecting your quiet. Here are some options for dealing with annoying noise:
Remove the noise
Leaky faucets don’t fix themselves. Same goes for squeaky hinges, creaky floorboards and banging shutters. Lube it, tighten it, clean it, repair it, replace it or remove it. Just don’t put off dealing with it until it ends up shredding your nerves.
Know your noise tolerance limits, and set boundaries on what you’re willing to deal with socially. If people in your circle habitually display rude or thoughtless behaviors, don’t feel guilty about skipping out on the festivities. As much as we love spending time with friends and family, sometimes we just can’t make it work.
When children’s prolonged high-pitched screams continually go unchecked by their parents, for instance. When the host always plays the music too loud… Or when the din of conflicting opinions repeatedly reaches the brawling point. Why expose yourself to this kind of stress? Make plans to do something more fun, elsewhere. Develop a mindset that will help you STOP the noise.
Beyond erecting fences and walls, the right landscaping can reduce road and other neighborhood noise—so you can relax better when you’re at home—whether you’re inside or out. Rows of mature trees create effective sound absorbers, as do tall evergreen bushes, and plants in multiple layers between home and the road.
Plants that rustle in the wind will help naturally mask noise and additional noise masking can be had by adding the relaxing sound of a flowing water feature. Sunken outdoor living spaces are also an interesting option for adding extra sound protection in the yard. By dropping these spaces just a few feet, the surrounding earth will cause the noise to bounce away from you to create a more serene outdoor environment.
Wear your noise masking
Noise masking is the most effective way to say NO to the noise. Noise masking replaces the noise you don’t want to hear with a more pleasant sound like Pink Noise—which mimics the sound of those rustling leaves and flowing fountains. It’s your best bet when you’re determined to STOP the noise and enjoy your life.
Wireless earbuds are the most efficient way to deliver the noise masking technology directly to your ear. They’re perfect for enjoying your indoor and outdoor spaces without hearing leaf blowers, garbage trucks, partying neighbors, barking dogs, and snoring partners.
Get help for “Internal Noise”
Don’t let internal noise get the best of you. Whether you’re suffering from phantom noise, brain chatter, or the inability to manage noise-related frustration, an expert can help you cope.
Brain chatter is a completely normal human function—that doesn’t mean it’s always healthy. When our brains aren’t actively engaged in something productive, it’s easy for them to wander down some precarious paths. Inventing alternative realities, re-examining the past, puzzling out the future… harmless for the most part as long as you’re avoiding any negative self-talk.
Then again, if you’re trying to fall asleep—or should be focused on work or solving problems—brain chatter is an annoying roadblock. But there’s good news. Assuming there are no second parties occupying the space, brain chatter is something you can effectively deal with on your own. Positive practices like meditation and focused breathing are helpful tools when those random thoughts get too loud or spiral out of control.
Pink noise is also a great way to diffuse the noise in your brain. Because it increases brainwave synchronization, you’ll find using pink noise earbuds will not only help you get to sleep faster—but you’ll sleep deeper and longer—and feel more rested. And the benefits of pink noise don’t end with better sleep…
Since it relaxes the brain, pink noise can help you develop a more focused mind during the day. When you need to stay laser-focused on a task, pink noise ends the brain chatter.
While not actually an internal noise, Hyperacusis bears mentioning. This condition affects one’s ability to tolerate normally accepted sound levels—ordinary noise levels are perceived as loud—loud sounds can be perceived as painful. It is most commonly caused by inner ear damage resulting from the aging process or loud noise exposure. However, it may also result from traumatic injury, or a history of ear infections or migraine headaches.
On average, human ears are able to comfortably manage sounds that reach up to 90 decibels. For someone with Hyperacusis, this sound level is intolerable. Treatment for Hyperacusis is best managed through an ENT specialist who can test and diagnose the most effective therapy. Some of these specialists are finding the most effective treatment for this disorder is through the introduction of pink noise via an electronic hearing device.
Misophonia is also a sound sensitivity disorder—commonly referred to as a dislike—or sometimes hatred of sound. Someone experiencing Misophonia will have intense negative reactions to softer sounds the average person would disregard. For them, these quieter sounds like someone’s breathing, chewing, swallowing, or scratching, trigger a powerful adverse response. As you can imagine, this condition has very detrimental relationship consequences.
People who suffer from Misophonia often remove themselves from public exposure. Their personal lives are complicated, as sharing a meal with someone or sleeping in the same room is affected by these noise triggers. Someone chewing gum or tapping a pen is an unbearable distraction.
Clinical audiologist, Dr Marsha Johnson sees wide application for the use of broadband sounds which decrease the noise-to-background-sound ratio. The use of a broadband sound like pink noise interferes with the ear’s ability to detect those quieter sounds so that the person can avoid the auditory triggers. Pink noise is also known to calm the brain and promote relaxation, as it utilizes more soothing tones than white noise.
People with Tinnitus perceive “phantom” sounds that aren’t originating from an external source. These sound types range from buzzing, hissing and humming to booming, drilling, whistling and even snippets of music—that only they can hear. Approximately 25-30 million Americans experience Tinnitus regularly; 1-in-4 describe the sounds as loud.
Approximately 40% of these individuals are affected by this unwelcome noise throughout 80% of their day and for about 1-in-5, this condition significantly interferes with their ability to function normally. Tinnitus sufferers also have difficulty falling asleep and getting enough quality sleep to feel rested.
According to sleep doctor, David Breuss, “Staying relaxed is one important way to minimize the disruptiveness of tinnitus.” While there is no cure yet, scientists see potential in electrical and magnetic brain stimulation as well as anxiety and stress management. Pink noise is also an effective respite for some, as it masks a person’s perception of the Tinnitus which allows them to relax and find temporary relief from the disruptive sound.
There are many self-help tools for relaxing and managing your stress. From making sure you’re getting enough sleep—to eating right, exercising—and paying attention to your emotional needs. You deserve a sense of peace & harmony. Making this a priority can put a decisive end to noise-induced stress—which will help keep you a lot healthier on all levels.
Ask for help when you need it. Take advantage of expert advice—whether you’re dealing with a physical, mental, emotional—or behavioral issue, you don’t have to deal with it alone.
Sometimes the best help comes from friends and family who’ve been in your shoes. A close friend you trust—one who’ll tell you the truth—may be able to give you all the support you need to take healthy action. If not, consider talking to someone who specializes in your area of need.
Protect your peace & quiet
Take action now to preserve your peace of mind. Protecting the quiet within you is essential to feeling good about yourself and about life in general. Stop the Noise and you end all the frustration that goes with it! You may just wish you’d done it sooner.
Here’s to better sleep and happier, more productive days!