Noise is a normal part of our life. In and of itself, background noise is not necessarily a bad thing, but you probably agree there are some pretty big differences between a soothing sound and a sharp and sudden noise that startles you. The truth is that noise has a surprisingly powerful effect on us throughout our daily lives,1 and in a way that can really add up over time!
What’s this mean for our poor ears? Read on to find out both the good and bad, and how you can help heal yourself with smarter use of sound!
Why Does Noise Matter?
An overabundance of annoying, distracting, or unwanted sounds in the background is referred to as noise pollution. These aren’t gentle and soothing sounds like waves against the beach, the sound of wildlife at night, or the whirl of a box fan in the window.
Noise pollution can be traffic, the loud sounds of partying from a neighbor or next door bar, or more. Basically, if the sound doesn’t blend into the background, if it is causing headaches, being distracting, or just constantly preventing quiet then those sounds qualify as noise pollution.
If you’ve ever been exposed to a really annoying sound over a long period of time, then you know how much of a difference this can make. The constant sound is distracting, it can be stressful, and studies have shown that being exposed to noise pollution over time can cause a variety of health issues.
Negative Health Effects
Noise pollution isn’t great for the brain or the nerves. While this probably isn’t news to you, science has backed up these first-hand experiences and added a surprising number of negative health effects that come from noise.
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Even major organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) & Center for Disease Control (CDC) have come forward about the negative health issues that can come from being exposed to too much noise pollution.2
So what are those potential health issues?
First, the obvious ones. Hearing issues. If the noise pollution is really loud, or just a constant drone at a certain level, then you can expect your hearing to go over time or even experience limited amounts of hearing loss. This leads to more stress and often problems sleeping, which leads to even more stress.
Those two can combine to cause high blood pressure which is a serious physical health issue that makes things like heart attack and stroke much higher possibilities. All of that from a little noise.
Can Sound Soothe?
In the same way that the wrong type of noise can be really bad for the health, sound can be soothing and the right type of sounds can be a great way to help encourage sleep and leave you feeling better and healthier overall.
A study from researchers at Penn State University showed that the right types of sounds at night actually encouraged a good night’s sleep. These sounds included constant low level sounds like the whirl of a box fan at a steady setting or the similar sound of an air conditioner or diffuser running at night.3
Nature sounds also have a very powerful effect on us individually, and this mental health bonus and relaxation boost seem to occur whether we consider ourselves natural outdoors people or not! 4 When you see the “soothing sleep CD” on sale, it’s worth considering because these actually have been shown to be relaxing.
The sound of a gentle babbling brook, for example, is perfect for meditation or bedtime and can drown out minor noise pollution while creating a physiological response in your body that helps you relax and de-stress. When you have less anxiety, tension, or stress, it becomes far easier to enjoy a relaxing and healthy life.
It takes so little effort to start to block out noise pollution once you recognize it for what it is, and begin to use soothing sounds in ways that lead to a better and happier (not to mention healthier) life.
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