We need to shout louder about noise pollution

When people think of pollution affecting people’s health, most people’s first thought will be to turn to the level of traffic on the roads, point at the so-called dirty diesels and make a fuss about how awful air pollution is. Whilst air pollution certainly is an issue that desperately needs tackling, as a BBC report in 2016 revealed that around 40,000 deaths a year can be attributed to poor air quality, there’s often not enough people shouting loudly enough about noise pollution – excuse the pun, it was wholly intentional. According to the World Health Organisation, noise pollution is the second largest environmental cause of health problems, leading to conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even mental health issues. From noisy neighbours playing Clubland Classics 4 until the early hours, to the simple background hum of the main road, noise is everywhere and most of it poses a bigger risk than many of us realise.

As reported in the Guardian, Dr Yutong Samuel Cai of Imperial College London states very clearly that there is “consistent evidence that road traffic noise leads to heart attacks”. That isn’t to say a simple stroll down Oxford Street will kill you, but living next to a main road where the low-pitch hum of road traffic is constant, could have serious consequences for your health. The inability to get a good night’s sleep can lead to increased blood pressure, thereby putting strain on your heart, and not forgetting the link between a lack of sleep and conditions like depression and anxiety; yet unfortunately there are no laws protecting people against traffic or airport noise. The only thing you can do is to take measures yourself: simple things like changing the room where you sleep, wearing earplugs or investing in insulation or triple-glazed windows for your property can definitely make a difference to the quality of sleep you get.

Thankfully there are things you can do to tackle noise nuisance caused by inconsiderate neighbours. You can lodge a formal complaint with your local authority, who then have a duty to investigate and take measures to reduce the disturbance, if they deem it to be an unacceptable breach of noise level regulations. You can find out more about this by reading my other article about sleep deprivation and noisy neighbours!

It’s not just environmental noise that we need to be mindful of. Noise at work can pose a huge risk to those who work unprotected in areas where they’re subjected to dangerously high levels of noise; factory workers, stage technicians and even musicians are at risk from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which is why Cirrus Research has spent the last five decades constantly developing new and innovative ways to measure noise nuisance, noise at work and environmental noise. We believe passionately in not only safeguarding people’s hearing, but also protecting them against the health issues that can be caused by noise disturbances and NIHL.

Although nowadays there is greater awareness of noise pollution and employers’ obligations to protect their workers’ hearing, it’s estimated that a staggering one million life years are lost in western Europe each year because of environmental noise, with cardiovascular disease being the main cause! That number doesn’t even account for the years lost as a result of hearing loss sustained in the workplace. The numbers are still far too high. There’s clearly still a long way to go properly tackle noise pollution, but if everyone shouts a little louder about it (albeit not too loud), we can raise awareness even further and continue to encourage important changes that will protect people’s hearing and ultimately, their lives.

Clarke Roberts

Content & Marketing Executive at Cirrus Research plc

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