Disturbed and Stressed by noise?

What Is Noise And How Does It Hurt Your Health?

In a high-density, urban city like Singapore, noise pollution is inevitable. Even more so if you live near MRT tracks or expressways. 

Most people mistakenly believe that they will eventually get used to noisy environments. In reality, chronic, long-term noise can be more harmful to your health than you realise – but the good news is that it can be prevented.

The effects of noise pollution have been severely underestimated and overlooked. According to guidelines from the World Health Organization Europe (WHO-EU), average night exposure should not exceed 40 decibels (dB). 

dB is the unit of measure for the intensity of sound waves. It is a logarithmic unit which means a small increase means much higher intensity. To put things into perspective:

  • 50 dB is twice the noise level as compared to 40dB
  • 60 dB is 4 times the noise level as compared to 40 dB
  • 70 dB is 8 times the noise level as compared to 40 dB
  • 80 dB is 16 times the noise level as compared to 40 dB

A normal conversation between two people is probably around 60 dB, while an air-conditioned room without external noise is usually around 35 dB. So, 40 dB is equivalent to a quiet room with above-average aircon sounds.

In addition, a research by NUS shows that Singapore’s average outdoor sound level stands at 69.4 dB. This is close to 3 times the noise level that trigger health issues such as insomnia, higher blood pressure and even heart attacks, according to research from the WHO-EU. Let’s take a closer look at some of the wellness challenges that come with prolonged noise pollution.

Poor Sleep

Many of us here in Singapore live in a noisy neighbourhood and in close proximity to other households. Exposure to elevated levels of night time noise can disturb our sleep and cause insomnia

Sleep deprivation can lead to lethargy, anxiety, depression and in the long run can also contribute to serious medical conditions including hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Hearing Impairment / Learning Difficulties

High-intensity sound waves cause unnecessary ripples in the ear canal, disturbing the fluid that aids communications between the ear and the brain. This disturbance potentially destroys the tiny, very delicate, hair follicles that send signals to the brain whenever sound enters the ear. Hearing impairment is very probable after 50% of these hairs are gone, necessitating hearing devices. 

Research has also shown that prolonged, uncontrolled exposure to high frequency noises can seriously jeopardise a kid’s memory and reading power.

Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases

Being exposed to noise pollution for 10 consecutive years or more, will raise your chances of suffering  cardiovascular-related disease later in life by 300%. 

About a decade back, scientists from the University of Gothenburg found out that high noise levels increase an individual’s pulse rates and cause constriction of blood vessels. Thus, making him/her vulnerable to heart attacks or high blood pressure. Being exposed to such noises for more than 8 hours a day could even be worse.

Psychological Disorders

A research shows that too much noise can make people easily irritable, irrational in decision making, and feel constant anxiety throughout the day. In extreme cases, noise can make your life so stressful that you become socially aloof.  

Unproductive at work due to poor concentration, and emotional unstable due to reduced self-confidence are also some psychological disorders associated with noise.

What can you do?

Fortunately, noise pollution can be reduced. Curtain and Carpets can absorb sound of up to 5%. Standard high quality windows can help reduce 20 dB of noise indoors. However, the ideal solution is to install a soundproof window, which will be able to reduce at least 30 dB of noise.

If you feel your hearing has been impaired due to noise, it is imperative that you seek advice from an audiologist or hearing specialist. Should you need hearing devices, it is best to get them as soon as possible. This will protect your ear canals from further damage as well as prevent social isolation. 

Hence, it is equally necessary for you to go slow on loud music. Or get noise-cancelling headphones when operating noisy machines such as the lawn mower. And to avoid staying near loud sounds for more than an hour.