Our world today involves constant noise and interruptions. Whether it is traffic and sirens in the city, lawnmowers and overhead planes in the suburbs, the hum and noise of the refrigerator and dishwasher, or the ringing of our cell phones, it is hard to escape the din. We have become so accustomed to daily noise that without it we feel unproductive. While we become used to these sounds and can often ignore them, unfortunately, they are affecting our health in both physical and mental ways.
The American Speech Language Hearing Association estimates that 30 million Americans are exposed to dangerous noise levels on a regular basis and that number continues to rise yearly. Constant exposure to traffic and overhead plane noise is causing injuries to the hair cells in our ears by “knocking them down.” These hair cells are how we transmit sound to our brains. Hair cells can recover if we avoid noise and give them a chance to restore themselves back to normal.
Researchers have found that the stress of constant noise increases blood pressure, heart rate and the release of our stress hormones. When we are startled by sounds, it can cause a surge of cortisol, adrenaline and other stress hormones that create that fight or flight reaction in our bodies. There have even been links found between constant noise and diabetes, respiratory disorders and cancer. Even though we adapt to screen out noises over time, they are still affecting our nervous systems, whether we are consciously bothered by them or not. Our annoyance of the racket has been associated with depression and anxiety issues. The noise disturbs our sleep, affects our ability to focus, can cause unhealthy food choices and ups our stress level; all things that can contribute to heart disease.
Thankfully, there are strategies to help us deal with noise. Taking time for a walk in nature is a great way to alleviate all that loudness. The sounds we hear in nature like birds, rustling leaves and the sounds of the ocean waves have the opposite effect of the noises we hear on a daily basis. They are calming and lower our stress levels, helping us to focus more clearly. Meditation is another excellent way to calm the clanging. Through meditation, we can learn to acknowledge the sound as just another sound and let us avoid being so riled up by the noise. At night, the use of a sound machine, a humidifier or other form of white noise can help cancel out loud sounds, especially for those of us who live in the city where there can be constant traffic and noise late at night. The use of ear plugs at night can also help block outside noise as well as the snoring of our spouses. Noise-cancelling headphones help reduce outside noise so you we can listen to music or television at a quieter level. Recapturing some peace and quiet will help improve our health and those jangled nerves. It is okay to feel a sense of calm and stillness in our lives and we will probably find ourselves to be even more productive.
written by Tonia DeCosimo