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Should You Be Concerned About Noise Pollution?

Author
Sharon Brandwein
December 19, 2020

While noise is all around us, it’s highly probable that many of us don’t give it a second thought. From the hum of the streets below us to the sounds of our music and televisions, it’s everywhere. And those are the sounds we’ve accepted and even chosen.

Noise pollution, however, is the overexposure to the unwanted ambient noises we have no control over. Like planes flying overhead, trains going by, the neighbor’s dog barking incessantly, car horns, sirens — you get the idea. But while the cacophony of the world rages on, what is it doing to our hearing and what is it doing to our health?

measure noise

How Is Noise and Noise Pollution Measured?

Noise is measured in decibels, and while a certain level of noise is to be expected as you go through the motions of life, excessive noise levels can damage your hearing. Just to give you an idea of what the noise around you looks like, here’s a list of everyday noises and the decibel levels associated with them:

Vacuum cleaners 70 decibels

Lawnmowers 90 decibels

Normal conversation 60 decibels

Refrigerator hum 40 decibels

Soft Whisper 30 decibels

Washing machine 70 decibels

Normal breathing 10 decibels

City Traffic 80 - 85 decibels

Motorcycle 95 decibels

Firecrackers 140 - 150 decibels

It’s important to note here that noises or sounds above 80 decibels can cause permanent damage and hearing loss. Not to mention that age-related hearing loss is largely due to the cumulative effects of noise pollution over a lifetime. Unfortunately, the sad fact is we are so hemmed in by noise pollution that hearing loss is quickly becoming a public health crisis. 

One group that clearly and unfortunately demonstrates the effects of noise pollution and hearing loss is military service members. For over a decade, 3M distributed defective earplugs to service members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And today, thousands of service members are struggling with hearing loss as a result of their time in combat. Needless to say, there are lawsuits pending

When it comes to the general public, however, almost 1 in 4 adults who previously reported excellent hearing now have measurable (noise-induced) hearing loss. Moreover, noise pollution is so prevalent that hearing loss is the third most chronic physical condition in the U.S., even beating out diabetes and cancer. And while this may sound plenty disconcerting, the truth is noise pollution can lead to a range of health issues, including:

  • Hypertension
  • Hearing loss
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Stress
  • Heart Disease

hearing sound

How Sound Damages Your Hearing

When you hear a sound, it enters your ear canal through the eardrum. The sound continues moving onwards through your middle and inner ear, eventually making its way to your brain for interpretation. It's important to point out that the eardrum — or the tympanic membrane is very thin and quite delicate. So delicate, in fact, that intense pressure can easily cause it to rupture. Hearing loss is the result of these ruptures or tears in the eardrum impeding the transmission of sound into the middle and inner ear. 

At this point, it should be abundantly clear that it's virtually impossible to avoid all sources of noise pollution. However, you can be proactive and take steps to protect yourself and mitigate the risk of hearing loss.

Tips For Avoiding Noise Pollution

Start by limiting your exposure to loud noises. While it may seem that so much is out of your control when it comes to ambient noise, remember that there is a lot you can affect for the better. For example, you have plenty of control over the noise level in your home. Turning down the volume on the TV or stereo can make a world of difference. When you're tackling household chores that tend to be noisy (i.e., mowing the lawn), don't forget your ear protection.  

When you're out and about, avoid using headphones at high volumes for prolonged periods and consider investing in a set of noise-canceling headphones so you're not inadvertently exposing yourself to both loud music and background noise at the same time. And while we're on the subject, consider switching to earphones versus earbuds that are far more likely to damage your hearing. If you know ahead of time that you'll be attending a loud event (think concerts and celebrations), grab a pair of earplugs as you head out the door. 

Noise pollution is all around us, and while there is really no way to avoid it entirely, there are things you can do to mitigate your risk of hearing loss. Try to reduce your exposure to loud noise in situations you can control like turning down your music and television and wear protective gear whenever possible.  

The lawsuits against 3M are still pending, so, if you or a loved one served in a combat zone between 2003 and 2015 and experienced ringing in the ears or hearing loss after using 3M earplugs you may be entitled to compensation, and there is still time. Take our free case evaluation below to find out if you are eligible.

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We are here to help you and loved ones advocate for justice. Feel free to send us any questions you might have, either about an injury or the process for pursuing justice so we can help you exercise your rights.

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