Summary of Adverse Health Effects of Noise
Prepared by Louis Hagler, MD
Based on the World Health Organization Guideline for Community Noise
(See: http://www.who.int/docstore/peh/noise/Noiseold.html for complete report)
The World Health Organization has documented seven types of health hazards produced by noise.
1. Hearing Impairment: Noise damages hearing. Damaged hearing has life-long effects on school and job performance, on earning power, and on relationships.
2. Interference with Spoken Communication: Noise interferes with one’s ability to understand what other people are saying. This may lead to a number of personal disabilities, handicaps, and behavioral changes.
3. Sleep Disturbances: Noise interrupts sleep. Sleep is necessary for good health. Disturbed sleep produces fatigue, causes irritability, impairs performance, and leads to accidents.
4. Cardiovascular Disturbances: Noise increases blood pressure and heart rate, and may cause abnormal heart rhythms. Noise produces these changes occur even when a person is asleep. (It is now known as a cause of fatal heart attacks.)
5. Disturbances in Mental Health: Noise may cause or contribute to anxiety, stress, nervousness, nausea, headache, emotional instability, argumentativeness, and mood changes.
6. Impaired Task Performance: Noise impairs performance, increases errors, and decreases motivation. Noise has a negative effect on learning, reading attention, problem solving, and memory.
7. Negative Social Behavior and Annoyance Reactions: Noise produces a wide range of unwanted emotional responses that interfere with work and school performance, and with the ability to get along with others. Some of these responses include anger, withdrawal, depression, anxiety, distraction, agitation, or exhaustion.
Effects of Multiple Sources of Noise: We are exposed to more than one source of noise; these noises will lead to a combination of adverse effects, such as sleep disturbances; cardiovascular disturbances; interference at work, school, and home; and annoyance; among others.
Groups Vulnerable to the Effects of Noise: Although anyone can be adversely affected by noise, groups that are particularly vulnerable include the elderly, patients, infants, and children. These groups need special protection.
Conclusions and Recommendations; The adverse health effects of noise are numerous and important. It is the role of government to protect us from noise and other forms of pollution. Our homes and neighborhoods should be places of quiet.
More information on this subject can be found at http://www.nonoise.org/library/smj/smj.htm