Noise and health

On the occasion of marking the International Noise Awareness Day 2017, the European Environment Agency (EEA) has launched the promotion of the idea of ​​a noise-free environment across Europe. European Commission has called on all countries to promote activities such as holding specialized workshops on noise protection, seminars and cultural activities, especially among young people who need to be aware of the consequences of over-exposure to environmental noise.

The question is why we care so much about unwanted noise around us? From a short-term perspective, noise causes stress. Most of us understand that stress is a trigger for many unwanted consequences on our health. From a long-term perspective, noise causes partial or even complete hearing loss, as a major health handicap.

Many communities, as well as individuals, no longer accept noise as a natural by-product of the industrial society. Some urban areas have thus started dealing with it. For example, New Yorkers list noise as the leading objection to the quality level of urban life.

Although adults are most concerned with the noise issue, children are as vulnerable, and their symptoms tend to go overlooked for a long time.

A unique tool for reliable assessment of population exposure to various sources of noise (road, rail and air traffic, industrial plants) is noise maps. It is a common goal to include all stakeholders in preventive activities such as noise intensity measurements at the source and noise correction to avoid hot spots of excessive noise. Noise can be reduced in several ways: vehicles should run slower wherever possible; while in cities, the noise is muffled by the trees, road building should, however, foresee noise barriers; operation times of noise emitters should be restricted and noise-making devices regularly maintained.

The public needs to be informed on a regular basis about excessive noise and its health hazards. They should be made aware of the importance of noise prevention and protection. Often, we ourselves, without knowing it, can help reduce the level of noise in the environment by turning down the music from our stereo devices, especially earphones, by wearing headphones or earplugs at the workplace, by using decorative sound-absorbing materials and by avoiding having several loud household appliances working at the same time.