The Importance of Evaluating Your Noise Diet


Take a moment to listen to the world around you. Many of us are bombarded daily with an onslaught of sound. Our ears (those complicated little shells on the side of our heads that link to our nervous system) are always open for business. This means that unless we plug them, they never turn off.

This ability to always hear may have been necessary back in the day, when all we heard as hunter gatherers and even as farmers were the whistling wind in the trees, birds chirping, and if we were lucky the approaching footsteps of a predator. In today’s modern world, however, the constant buzzing, peeping, honking and pounding has had an adverse affect on our health.

Studies show that chronic noise can lead to all kinds of issues, from increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and anxiety, to causing sleep disorders and weakening the body’s immune system. One study found that school children living below Heathrow airport with all the heavy air traffic noise were significantly impaired when it came to their cognitive learning skills, especially in their ability to read.

Even when we are able to tune a noise out, it still affects our bodies. Our hearing is an ancient defense mechanism, meant to put us on alert. Therefore, when we hear a sound, no matter what it may be, our heart rate quickens as our blood pressure spikes, releasing stress hormones. This means that even activities like watching a movie or listening to a record that are meant to relax us often have the opposite affect on our bodies.

In an article for, Dr. Mathias Basner, MD, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and president of the International Commission on Biological Effects of Noise, explains that social noise alone has tripled since the 1980s.

Our auditory system is constantly checking our environment, even when we are sleeping,” explains Basner. “It’s evaluating things at a level below the cortex, deciding whether the sound information is important enough to wake you up.”

What can be done to save ourselves from all this sound? The same article suggests tips for evaluating your sound environment. Once you have determined the level of noise in your life, there are certain things that can be done to clear the air. These include…

1.   Keep earplugs handy. (Use with caution in public places, however, as they could cause accidents)

2.   Quiet your home from unnecessary noise such as the computer, television, radio or loud kitchen appliances.

3.   Soundproof your bedroom to the best of your ability and make sure you sleep without any extra noise like sound machines or the television on in the background.

4.   Remove yourself from extra loud environments whenever possible.

5.   Seek out the quiet places, whether they be at home, work or out in the world.

Give these suggestions a try and before long you’ll be soaking up the sweet, sweet sound of silence. In this world of peeping, buzzing, there’s not much better than that for the mind, body and spirit.


Read all articles by Juniper Briggs


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  • Steve Yastrow
    commented 2014-12-06 09:16:34 -0500
    I often bring ear plugs to classes at my health club, because the "custom"’ is for the instructor to play the music really loud and then shout over it through a microphone, as if the loud noise is necessary to motivate people to exercise vigorously. I like to play a lot of music on the weekends, and if I attend a loud Saturday morning class with no earplugs I can notice that my ears will be fatigued and won’t hear the higher pitched sounds as well that afternoon, I.e., music sounds a bit muffled for hours. I guess most people in the class don’t notice this effect, or they are just so accustomed to noise fatigue that it feels normal. And, these effects can damage your hearing in ways that are cumulative and irreversible.
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