Noiseproof Your Health

It is not just your home that is noisy. The entire world is getting louder. The number of planes and automobiles has swelled in the past 25. And then there are all these new noises that up until 15 or so years ago did not even exist; think: ringtones, car alarms, and surround-sound movies theaters and sound systems.

The result of this is an increase in the number if people hearing disabilities, and sleep disturbance.

In the US alone, over than 26 million Americans have permanent noise-induced hearing loss, according to the National Institutes of Health.

But what’s surprising is not the surging number of Americans who have permanent noise-induced hearing loss, but are the links between noise and stress – something that is more hazardous to your health.

Sudden, loud noises trigger our fight-or-flight response, during which the heart pumps harder, blood pressure rises, and the body releases stress hormones that include adrenaline and cortisol. It is the unpredictability of the sound that triggers this response. Notice that you don’t get stressed over the sound of your blender, but you jump at the sound of the revving of a motorcycle, even if your blender is actually louder.

The flight-or-fight response was crucial in escaping predators. However, modern life does not usually defending yourself from monstrous beasts. Thus, the result of this "evolutionary leftover" is extra anxiety and cardiovascular stress.

2 years ago, European researchers monitored about 5,000 people who lived close to 6 major airports. The researchers measure the participants’ blood pressure as ambient noise surged and dropped.

Research leader Lars Jarup, Ph.D. explains that "The higher the noise levels, the higher the risk of hypertension [a major risk factor for heart disease]." Even when the participants sleep through landing or takeoff, their blood pressure rose.

By extrapolating from this study data, other researchers estimate that 3 percent of all fatal heart attacks can be attributed to excess noise. Louis Hagler, M.D., a retired San Francisco doctor who has written about the health effects of excess noise, notes that "that’s about 4,00 people in California alone die prematurely each year due to noise pollution." Now there’s a silent killer that’s not so quiet.

How to quiet things down

Close your windows – if your room gets hot and stuffy, turn on your AC or fan. The low hum of your AC is not harmful because it does not trigger your flight-or-fight response.

Sleep with earplugs – WH suggest Etymotic Research ER-20 High Fidelity earplug which reportedly reduces noise by 20 decibels, but does not affect sound quality.

Use noise-reducing headphones – if you can’t control the noise shut it out. WH recommends Bose QuietComfort 2 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones. Or, know when your neighbors ‘bring the noise’ so you can take off whenever they do.

Replace your rumbling appliances

Install sound-absorbing insulation – insulations are designed to absorb sound vibrations when stuffed inside you walls, ceilings and floors. WH recommends Owens Corning’s line of QuietZone insulation.

Get Zen – find time to just be quiet. Turn off your car radio during when you take a drive. Read, instead of watching TV or listening to music. Leave your iPod at home on your next run and enjoy more "natural sounds."

Source: Women’s Health