Constant noise pollution is a reality of modern life, especially to city dwellers and people living in highly populated areas. Environmental noise, industrial noise, traffic – they all contribute to the constant din around us. But sadly, we have become so accustomed to this never-ending auditory assault that we don’t even notice it anymore.
Noise pollution is defined as the disturbing or excessive noise that may harm the activity or balance of human or animal life. With population growth and modern technology, noise is experienced more frequently and from more sources. Transport noise from trucks, trains and airplanes, general neighbourhood noise like schools and public events, and sound that is produced in manufacturing processes and other industrial activities all contribute to the fact that in the past twenty years, noise complaints have increased fivefold in the UK. (source)
Noise pollution doesn’t only affect the body either – it has very real effects on us, both psychologically and physiologically. Studies have shown that noise pollution raises blood pressure, which leads to hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
A 15-year long European study proved that prolonged exposure to airport noise increases the risk of heart attacks (source). A 2013 study around Heathrow airport found that high levels of aircraft noise was closely associated with an increased risk of hospital admission and death from stroke, coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease for those living nearby. The objective of the research was to understand the association of aircraft noise with risk of heart-related illnesses in the general population.
The latest estimates suggest that a ten decibel increase in aircraft noise, increased heart attacks and strokes by 7 to 17% (source). In fact, noise is so detrimental that the World Health Organization suspects it may be the cause of 3% of deaths linked to heart disease. (source)
Noise pollution also causes irritability, insomnia, and the most obvious effect, hearing loss. It can cause permanent hearing loss by damaging the cochlea, which through sound vibrations produce nerve impulses, allowing us to hear. The damage to the cochlea occurs gradually and painlessly, so the problem isn’t recognized until serious hearing loss is already advanced. (source)
Children are exposed to noise pollution in their home and classroom environments, and when traveling or playing outdoors. Noise pollution can have adverse effects on children, especially while their hearing organs are still developing and so it is essential that we protect our children from intense and constant noise as much as possible. Noise has the potential for damage at 80 decibels, which is equivalent to a passing train, and is definitely damaging at 100 decibels, which is equivalent to an overhead jet or stereo held close to the ear. (source)
Our children need quiet to contemplate the world, process all the stimuli that they are exposed to every day and to develop. Noise pollution interferes with a child’s cognitive development, and could cause them to have difficulties in forming and differentiating speech. It also interferes with their ability to read and write because noise forces children to zone out as a coping mechanism.
As anyone who has ever tried to study while the neighbours are throwing a party can attest, noise can be debilitating when trying to concentrate or while reinforcing the skills learned during the school day. This assumption is supported by studies done by the Department of Psychiatry at the University of London that show a link between chronic exposure to noise pollution and low performance on national standardized reading tests (source). And in European studies of children living around the Munich airport, researchers found sufficient evidence to support the theory that noise pollution affected reading, memory, audio discrimination, speech perception, and academic performance. (source) Another study found that a five decibel increase in aircraft noise exposure led to a two-month lag in reading age. (source)
Since children’s bodies are still developing, health effects like increased heart rate have a more permanent and deleterious effect. Therefore, it is vital that homes be protected from noise pollution so children can grow and thrive. Noise pollution is so harmful that children could suffer from it even while in the womb. Studies have shown that fetuses who are exposed to excessive noise pollution in-utero could suffer growth retardation, hearing impairment, and sleep disturbances as a result. (source)
Fortunately, the effects of noise pollution are reversible. In the 1990’s, an airport was closed in Munich, and afterwards, researchers were given the opportunity to carry out a longitudinal study on the children’s long-term memory and reading comprehension. Researchers found that children no longer exposed to noise pollution, improved in these areas. The longer the noise pollution ceased, the better the child did cognitively. (source) This finding was also confirmed by a study of schools around United States airports. When schools installed sound insulation, the effects of noise pollution on learning slowly disappeared. (source)
Although a severe disturbance, noise pollution can be combatted with a variety of solutions. It is especially important that our homes be protected because we spend so much time there and it is where we rest and recharge. Noise pollution is particularly damaging to sleep, and results in sleep disturbance and shortened sleep times. (source) In a quiet room like a bedroom, an acceptable noise level is no more than 30-35 decibels while a living room or common room can support a noise level of up to 40 decibels. (source)
To protect your home from environmental noise, the first thing you should look at are your windows. Windows allow noise to enter our homes from the street and neighbourhood because they are far less dense and generally less insulated than walls and other structures. Thankfully, window systems like triple glazing offer high levels of sound insulation and assist in keeping noise out while still allowing light and warmth into your home.
Triple glazed windows are particularly necessary if your home is near a heavily trafficked area or transport hub.
There are a few contributing factors to consider when looking at the sound insulation properties of windows: glass thickness, number of layers, cavity size between layers, and type of gas in the cavities all play a role.
Single glazing with a 4mm thick glass panel will reduce noise pollution by 25 – 29 decibels. Double glazing consisting of two 4mm thick glazing panels and a 16mm gap between them filled with Argon [Ar] gas will block noise pollution by 30 – 34 decibels. When those glass panels are increased to 6mm panels, the noise blocking abilities increase to achieve sound insulation of 35 – 39 decibels.
Triple glazing makes use of Krypton [Kr] gas, which is denser than Argon gas and further aids in blocking sound. By adding a third glass panel and second Krypton-filled gap in a triple glazing unit, sound insulation of up to 50 decibels can be achieved. (source)
The type of glass you choose for the window is also important. Standard triple glazed units use low-E glass as well as low iron glass to maximize the light entering the home and the minimize the amount of heat that escapes. Or particularly noisy neighbourhoods like those around railways, you may wish to invest in acoustic laminate glass that has been developed to perform particularly well at higher frequencies. (source). Acoustic laminates interlay several thicknesses of special PVB (polyvinyl butyral) glass to give it this sound-proofing ability. When combined with other products, it offers additional benefits such as thermal insulation, solar control and self-cleaning. (source)
Noise pollution is a very real problem in the world we live in, especially for those living in cities and high density urban environments. Luckily, problems that are caused by modern technology can also be solved by modern technology. There is no need to suffer from noise disturbance in the home, and put you and your family’s health at risk. Do everything you can to protect your family with sufficient sound insulation.
Published on : 26th January 2017
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