Noise pollution, also known as environmental noise, is the propagation of noise with harmful impact on the activity of human or animal life. The source of outdoor noise worldwide is mainly caused by machines, transport and transportation systems. Poor urban planning may give rise to noise pollution, side-by-side industrial and residential buildings can result in noise pollution in the residential areas. Research suggests that noise pollution is the highest in low-income and racial minority neighborhoods. Documented problems associated with urban environment noise go back as far as ancient Rome.
High noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular effects in humans and an increased incidence of coronary artery disease. In animals, noise can increase the risk of death by altering predator or prey detection and avoidance, interfere with reproduction and navigation, and contribute to permanent hearing loss.
Main article: Health effects from noise
Noise pollution affects both health and behavior. Unwanted sound (noise) can damage psychological and physiological health. Noise pollution can cause hypertension, high stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and other harmful effects.
Sound becomes unwanted when it either interferes with normal activities such as sleep or conversation, or disrupts or diminishes one's quality of life.Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by outside (e.g. trains) or inside (e.g. music) noise.
Chronic exposure to noise may cause noise-induced hearing loss. Older males exposed to significant occupational noise demonstrate more significantly reduced hearing sensitivity than their non-exposed peers, though differences in hearing sensitivity decrease with time and the two groups are indistinguishable by age 79. A comparison of Maaban tribesmen, who were insignificantly exposed to transportation or industrial noise, to a typical U.S. population showed that chronic exposure to moderately high levels of environmental noise contributes to hearing loss.
High noise levels can result in cardiovascular effects and exposure to moderately high levels during a single eight-hour period causes a statistical rise in blood pressure of five to ten points and an increase in stress, and vasoconstriction leading to the increased blood pressure noted above, as well as to increased incidence of coronary artery disease.
Less addressed is how humans adapt to noise subjectively. Indeed, tolerance for noise is frequently independent of decibel levels. However, Murray Schafer's soundscape research was groundbreaking in this regard. In his eponymous work, he makes compelling arguments about how humans relate to noise on a subjective level, and how such subjectivity is conditioned by culture. He also notes that sound is an expression of power, and as such, material culture (e.g., fast cars or Harley Davidson motorcycles with aftermarket pipes) tend to have louder engines not only for safety reasons, but for expressions of power by dominating the soundscape with a particular sound. Other key research in this area can be seen in Fong's comparative analysis of soundscape differences between Bangkok, Thailand and Los Angeles, California, US. Fong's research methodology was modeled after Schafer, and the research findings show how not only do soundscapes differ, but they also rather explicitly point to the level of urban development in the area; that is, cities in the periphery – in Immanuel Wallerstein-speak – will have different soundscapes than that of cities in the core. Fong's important findings tie not only soundscape appreciation to our subjective views of sound, but also demonstrates how different sounds of the soundscape are indicative of class differences in urban environments.
Noise can have a detrimental effect on wild animals, increasing the risk of death by changing the delicate balance in predator or prey detection and avoidance, and interfering the use of the sounds in communication, especially in relation to reproduction and in navigation. Acoustic overexposure can lead to temporary or permanent loss of hearing.
An impact of noise on wild animal life is the reduction of usable habitat that noisy areas may cause, which in the case of endangered species may be part of the path to extinction. Noise pollution may have caused the death of certain species of whales that beached themselves after being exposed to the loud sound of military sonar. (see also Marine mammals and sonar)
Noise also makes species communicate more loudly, which is called Lombard vocal response. Scientists and researchers have conducted experiments that show whales' song length is longer when submarine-detectors are on. If creatures do not "speak" loudly enough, their voice will be masked by anthropogenic sounds. These unheard voices might be warnings, finding of prey, or preparations of net-bubbling. When one species begins speaking more loudly, it will mask other species' voice, causing the whole ecosystem eventually to speak more loudly.
Marine invertebrates, such as crabs (Carcinus maenas), have also been shown to be negatively affected by ship noise. Larger crabs were noted to be negatively affected more by the sounds than smaller crabs. Repeated exposure to the sounds did lead to acclimatization.
European robins living in urban environments are more likely to sing at night in places with high levels of noise pollution during the day, suggesting that they sing at night because it is quieter, and their message can propagate through the environment more clearly. The same study showed that daytime noise was a stronger predictor of nocturnal singing than night-time light pollution, to which the phenomenon often is attributed. Anthropogenic noise reduced the species richness of birds found in Neoptropical urban parks.
Zebra finches become less faithful to their partners when exposed to traffic noise. This could alter a population's evolutionary trajectory by selecting traits, sapping resources normally devoted to other activities and thus leading to profound genetic and evolutionary consequences.
Main article: Noise control
Noise from roadways and other urban factors can be mitigated by urban planning and better design of roads. Roadway noise can be reduced by the use of noise barriers, limitation of vehicle speeds, alteration of roadway surface texture, limitation of heavy vehicles, use of traffic controls that smooth vehicle flow to reduce braking and acceleration, and tire design. An important factor in applying these strategies is a computer model for roadway noise, that is capable of addressing local topography, meteorology, traffic operations, and hypothetical mitigation. Costs of building-in mitigation can be modest, provided these solutions are sought in the planning stage of a roadway project.
Aircraft noise can be reduced by using quieter jet engines. Altering flight paths and time of day runway has benefitted residents near airports.
Industrial noise has been addressed since the 1930s via redesign of industrial equipment, shock mounted assemblies and physical barriers in the workplace. In recent years, Buy Quiet programs and initiatives have arisen in an effort to combat occupational noise exposures. These programs promote the purchase of quieter tools and equipment and encourage manufacturers to design quieter equipment. The US National Institute for Occupational Health has created a database of industrial equipment with decibel levels noted.
Main article: Noise regulation
Up until the 1970s governments tended to view noise as a "nuisance" rather than an environmental problem.
Many conflicts over noise pollution are handled by negotiation between the emitter and the receiver. Escalation procedures vary by country, and may include action in conjunction with local authorities, in particular the police.
Noise pollution is a major problem in India. The government of India has rules & regulations against firecrackers and loudspeakers, but enforcement is extremely lax.Awaaz Foundation is an Indian NGO working to control noise pollution from various sources through advocacy, public interest litigation, awareness, and educational campaigns since 2003. Despite increased enforcement and stringency of laws now being practised in urban areas, rural areas are still affected.
Figures compiled by rockwool, the mineral woolinsulation manufacturer, based on responses from local authorities to a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request reveal in the period April 2008 – 2009 UK councils received 315,838 complaints about noise pollution from private residences. This resulted in environmental health officers across the UK serving 8,069 noise abatement notices or citations under the terms of the Anti-Social Behaviour (Scotland) Act. In the last 12 months, 524 confiscations of equipment have been authorized involving the removal of powerful speakers, stereos and televisions. Westminster City Council has received more complaints per head of population than any other district in the UK with 9,814 grievances about noise, which equates to 42.32 complaints per thousand residents. Eight of the top 10 councils ranked by complaints per 1,000 residents are located in London.
There are federal standards for highway and aircraft noise; states and local governments typically have very specific statutes on building codes, urban planning, and roadway development.
Noise laws and ordinances vary widely among municipalities and indeed do not even exist in some cities. An ordinance may contain a general prohibition against making noise that is a nuisance, or it may set out specific guidelines for the level of noise allowable at certain times of the day and for certain activities.
The Environmental Protection Agency retains authority to investigate and study noise and its effect, disseminate information to the public regarding noise pollution and its adverse health effects, respond to inquiries on matters related to noise, and evaluate the effectiveness of existing regulations for protecting the public health and welfare, pursuant to the Noise Control Act of 1972 and the Quiet Communities Act of 1978.
New York City instituted the first comprehensive noise code in 1985. The Portland Noise Code includes potential fines of up to $5000 per infraction and is the basis for other major U.S. and Canadian city noise ordinances.
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Noise health effects are the physical and psychological health consequences of regular exposure, to consistent elevated sound levels. Elevated workplace or environmental noise can cause hearing impairment, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, annoyance, and sleep disturbance. Changes in the immune system and birth defects have been also attributed to noise exposure.
Although presbycusis occur naturally with age, in many countries the cumulative impact of noise is sufficient to impair the hearing of a large fraction of the population over the course of a lifetime. Noise exposure has been known to induce tinnitus, hypertension, vasoconstriction, and other cardiovascularadverse effects. Chronic noise exposure has been associated with sleep disturbances and increased incidence of diabetes. Adverse cardiovascular effects occur from chronic exposure to noise due to the sympathetic nervous system's inability to habituate. The sympathetic nervous system maintains lighter stages of sleep when the body is exposed to noise, which does not allow blood pressure to follow the normal rise and fall cycle of an undisturbed circadian rhythm.
Stress from time spent around elevated noise levels has been linked with increased workplace accident rates and aggression and other anti-social behaviors. The most significant sources vehicles, aircraft, prolonged exposure to loud music, and industrial noise.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Main article: Noise-induced hearing loss
Noise-induced hearing loss is a permanent shift in pure-tone thresholds, resulting in sensorineural hearing loss. The severity of a threshold shift is dependent on duration and severity of noise exposure. Noise-induced threshold shifts are seen as a notch on an audiogram from 3000-6000 Hz, but most often at 4000 Hz.
Noise has been associated with important cardiovascular health problems, particularly hypertension. Noise levels of 50 dB(A) at night may also increase the risk of myocardial infarction by chronically elevating cortisol production.
Roadway noise levels are sufficient to constrict arterial blood flow and lead to elevated blood pressure. Vasoconstriction can result from elevated adrenaline levels or through medical stress reactions.
Psychological Impacts of Noise
Causal relationships have been discovered between noise and psychological effects such as annoyance, psychiatric disorders, and effects on psychosocial well-being. Exposure to intense levels of noise can cause personality changes and violent reactions. Noise has also been shown to be a factor that attributed to violent reactions. The psychological impacts of noise also include an addiction to loud music. This was researched in a study where non-professional musicians were found to have loudness addictions more often than non-musician control subjects.
Psychological health effects from noise include depression and anxiety. Individuals who suffer from hearing loss, including noise induced hearing loss, may have their symptoms alleviated with the use of hearing aids. Individuals who not seek treatment for their loss are 50% more likely to suffer from depression than their aided peers. These psychological effects can lead to detriments in physical care in the form of reduced self-care, work-tolerance, and increased isolation.
Auditory stimuli can serve as psychological triggers for individuals with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Research commissioned by Rockwool, a UK insulation manufacturer, reveals in the UK one third (33%) of victims of domestic disturbances claim loud parties have left them unable to sleep or made them stressed in the last two years. Around one in eleven (9%)  of those affected by domestic disturbances claims it has left them continually disturbed and stressed. More than 1.8 million people claim noisy neighbours have made their life a misery and they cannot enjoy their own homes. The impact of noise on health is potentially a significant problem across the UK given that more than 17.5 million Britons (38%) have been disturbed by the inhabitants of neighbouring properties in the last two years. For almost one in ten (7%) Britons this is a regular occurrence.
The extent of the problem of noise pollution for public health is reinforced by figures collated by Rockwool from local authority responses to a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request. This research reveals in the period April 2008 - 2009 UK councils received 315,838 complaints about noise pollution from private residences. This resulted in environmental health officers across the UK serving 8,069 noise abatement notices, or citations under the terms of the Anti-Social Behaviour (Scotland) Act.
Westminster City Council has received more complaints per head of population than any other district in the UK with 9,814 grievances about noise, which equates to 42.32 complaints per thousand residents. Eight of the top 10 councils ranked by complaints per 1,000 residents are located in London.
Sudden Impulse noises are typically perceived as more bothersome than noise from traffic of equal volume. Annoyance effects of noise are minimally affected by demographics, but fear of the noise source and sensitivity to noise both strongly affect the 'annoyance' of a noise. Sound levels as low as 40 dB(A) can generate noise complaints and the lower threshold for noise producing sleep disturbance is 45 dB(A) or lower.
Other factors that affect the 'annoyance level' of sound include beliefs about noise prevention and the importance of the noise source, and annoyance at the cause (i.e. non-noise related factors) of the noise. Many of the interpretations of the level of annoyance and the relationship between noise levels and resulting health symptoms could be influenced by the quality of interpersonal relationships at the workplace, as well as the stress level generated by the work itself. Evidence for impact on annoyance of long-term noise versus recent changes is equivocal.
Approximately 35% to 40% of office workers find noise levels from 55 to 60 dB(A) extremely irritating. The noise standard in Germany for mentally stressful tasks is set at 55 dB(A), however, if the noise source is continuous, the threshold level for tolerability among office workers is lower than 55 dB(A).
Infrasound (low-frequency sound)
Main article: Infrasound
Infrasound, sometimes referred to as low-frequency sound, is sound that is lower in frequency than 20 Hz (hertz) or cycles per second, the "normal" limit of human hearing. Hearing becomes gradually less sensitive as frequency decreases, so for humans to perceive infrasound, the sound pressure must be sufficiently high.
20 Hz is considered the normal low-frequency limit of human hearing. When pure sine waves are reproduced under ideal conditions and at very high volume, a human listener will be able to identify tones as low as 12 Hz.
One study has suggested that infrasound may cause feelings of awe or fear in humans. It also was suggested that since it is not consciously perceived, it may make people feel vaguely that odd or supernatural events are taking place.
Child physical development
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authored a pamphlet in 1978 that suggested a correlation between low-birthweight (using the World Health Organization definition of less than 2,500 grams (88 oz) and high sound levels, and also high rates of birth defects in places where expectant mothers are exposed to elevated sound levels, such as typical airport environs. Specific birth abnormalities included harelip, cleft palate, and defects in the spine.
According to Lester W. Sontag of The Fels Research Institute (as presented in the same EPA study): “There is ample evidence that environment has a role in shaping the physique, behavior, and function of animals, including man, from conception and not merely from birth. The fetus is capable of perceiving sounds and responding to them by motor activity and cardiac rate change." The effects of noise exposure are highest when it occurs between 15 and 60 days after conception, a period in which major internal organs and the central nervous system are formed.
Later developmental effects occur as vasoconstriction in the mother reduces blood flow and therefore oxygen and nutrition to the fetus. Low birth weights and noise were also associated with lower levels of certain hormones in the mother. These hormones are thought to affect fetal growth and to be good indicators of protein production. The difference between the hormone levels of pregnant mothers in noisy versus quiet areas increased as birth approached.
In a 2000 publication, a review of studies on birthweight and noise exposure note that while some older studies suggest that when women are exposed to >65 dB aircraft noise a small decrease in birthweight occurs, in a more recent study of 200 Taiwanese women including noise dosimetry measurements of individual noise exposure, the authors found no significant association between noise exposure and birth weight after adjusting for relevant confounders, e.g. social class, maternal weight gain during pregnancy, etc.
When young children are regularly exposed to levels of noise that interfere with speech, they may develop speech or reading difficulties, because auditory processing functions are compromised. Children continue to develop their speech perception abilities until they reach their teens. Evidence has shown that when children learn in noisier classrooms, they have more difficulties understanding speech than those who learn in quieter settings.
In a study conducted by Cornell University in 1993, children exposed to noise in learning environments experienced trouble with word discrimination, as well as various cognitive developmental delays. In particular, the writing learning impairment dysgraphia is commonly associated with environmental stressors in the classroom.
High noise levels have also been known to damage the physical health of small children. Children from noisy residences often have a heart rate that is significantly higher (by 2 beats/min on average) than those of children from quieter homes.
A study by Public Health Ontario showed a 7 per cent higher risk in developing dementia among those living within 50 metres of a road. Some scientists said that the study does not rule out items like poverty and having a lower education.Some Scientists also noted that the air pollution may be part of the cause. The study found that here was a linear decline in deaths for people that lived further away from roads.
Main article: Noise regulation
Environmental noise regulations usually specify a maximum outdoor noise level of 60 to 65 dB(A), while occupational safety organizations recommend that the maximum exposure to noise is 40 hours per week at 85 to 90 dB(A). For every additional 3 dB(A), the maximum exposure time is reduced by a factor 2, e.g. 20 hours per week at 88 dB(A). Sometimes, a factor of two per additional 5 dB(A) is used, however, these occupational regulations are acknowledged by the health literature as inadequate to protect against hearing loss and other health effects. In an effort to prevent noise-induced hearing loss, many programs and initiative have been created, like the Buy Quiet program, which encourages employers to purchase quieter tools and equipment, and the Safe-In-Sound Award, which recognizes organizations with successful hearing loss prevention strategies.
With regard to indoor noise pollution in residences, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not set any restrictions on limits to the level of noise. Rather, it has provided a list of recommended levels in its Model Community Noise Control Ordinance, which was published in 1975. For instance, the recommended noise level for indoor residences is less than or equal to 45 dB.
Noise pollution control in residences is not funded by the federal government in part because of the disagreements in establishing causal links between sounds and health risks, since the effect of noise is often psychological and also, because it leaves no singular tangible trace of damage on the human body. For instance, hearing loss could be attributed to a variety of factors including age, rather than solely due to excessive exposure to noise. A state or local government is able to regulate indoor residential noise, however, such as when excessive noise from within a home causes disturbances to nearby residences.
While people are often educated on the effects of noise exposure in humans, there are also different noise exposure effects in animals as well. An example of this would be in canines, and the noise exposure levels occurring within kennels. Canines experience this noise exposure whether it be a long stay at an animal shelter, or a weekend stay at a boarding facility.
Organizations like NIOSH and OSHA have different regulations when it comes to the noise exposure levels in industrial workers. Currently there are no regulations related to the noise exposure in canines even with such damaging effects related to their health. Health risks dogs are exposed to include ear damage and behavioral changes.
The average noise exposure in a kennel is greater than 100 dB SPL. According to OSHA these levels would yield in the use of hearing protection for the workers of those kennels due to the risk of noise induced hearing loss. The anatomical structures of the human and canine ear are very similar, so it is thought that these levels will negatively impact the hearing of canines in kennels. The ABR can be used to estimate the hearing threshold of canines, and can be used to show either a temporary threshold shift or permanent threshold shift after being exposed to excessive sound levels.
Behavioral effects to excessive noise exposure include hiding, urinating, defecating, panting, pacing, drooling, disregard to commands, trembling, and barking. These behavioral patterns pose a much greater problem to canines than meets the eye. All of these behavioral patterns are characteristics that result in a longer stay at the kennels before being adopted. A longer stay at the shelter results in a longer duration of noise exposure and therefore more likely to show either a temporary or permanent threshold shift in the canine’s hearing.
These excessive noise levels are not only harming the canines physical and psychological state, but the workers and potential adoptive families physical and psychological state as well. The workers psychological state could affect the care provided to the canines. These loud noise exposures also have the potential to reduce the amount of time that potential adoptive families spend in the facility. This can result in less dogs being adopted and more time being exposed to excessive sound levels.
To reduce the level of noise exposure poses a little more difficulty because the majority of the noise is coming from the canines (barking), but structural changes can be made to the facilities in order to reduce the noise. Structural changes could include how many dogs are put in one area, more absorbing material rather than metal cages and cement walls and floors, and possibly in the future use of hearing protection devices (HPD) for the canines. All of these structural changes would also benefit the humans involved as well as the use of HPD’s (ear plugs).
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