Noise: the Silent Killer

by Ella Pestine on April 30, 2014

In fourth grade when I decided to play drums instead of a quieter instrument like my sister’s violin, I didn’t realize the extent to which my music and other noise could harm those around me. While I consistently wore ear plugs while marching with my snare drum, my poor father now suffers from tinnitus as a result of my basement rehearsals. Other members of the drum line experienced premature hearing issues, and one tenor player is even partially deaf! We experience noise in many recreational activities including concerts, shooting ranges, and even going to the movies. While one may consider other health issues about these activities, noise pollution is an important factor that is many times forgotten while contemplating health.

Air pollution is a known cause of many negative health outcomes, but noise pollution can be just as dangerous. “Noise”, according to Nadakavukaren, is sound “at the wrong time and in the wrong place.” Noise can not only have physical effects, as evident in the incessant ringing sound in my dad’s ear, but it can also have psychological effects. Besides disrupting sleep, noise pollution can also increase stress and hamper productivity in the workplace ( We have all experienced noise pollution and the harmful effects of it. Living in a loud dormitory where music and loud conversations limit sleep and sleep quality can hinder class performance and grades. We face construction and sirens every day, especially in urban areas. Dangerously, we may not notice the long-term effects of such noise as we grow accustomed to loud music next door or the 6 am drilling across the street.

Noise pollution doesn’t just harm human health; it also has detrimental effects on animal well-being. In the ocean, whales are attracted to noise. When searching for food, whales strategically dive thousands of feet, yet when distracted by noise their dives are more reckless (Wolford, 2014). Not only can these reckless dives lead to under-nourishment, but they can also lead to dangerous swimming and death from bending in abnormal ways. Whales communicate with each other to signal food, danger, and to find mates. This communication is hindered when large, loud vessels are near. Noise is even more dangerous underwater than on land because sound carries further underwater than on land. All these noise issues in the oceans can lead to a mortality rate higher than the birth rate, endangering whale populations.

To animals, noise pollution is a “silent killer” and to humans it can also have many detrimental effects on health, making it a public health issue. But we can reduce the harmful effects in many ways. If you choose to participate in noise-polluting activities, protect yourself by wearing proper noise muffling accessories such as ear plugs or headphones. Setting limits on the television for how high the volume can reach could be an effective measure to ensure your kids don’t lose hearing from their favorite shows. There are certain laws preventing construction before certain times in the morning to ensure citizens obtain adequate sleep. We exercise and eat nutritious food to take care of our health and well-being, but there are many other aspects of our lives to which we must pay attention to ensure all around wellness for ourselves and our environment.noise11

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