The other day a patient boasted of having a big screen television in every room of his small apartment, including his bathroom, all blaring 24/7. He complained of headaches and feeling anxious.
Loud neighbors, lumbering trucks, barking dogs, construction crews—the world’s a noisy place. Noise is harmful, we process it subconsciously. So whether or not we realize it, noise triggers a fight-or-flight response in our sympathetic nervous system. Even if we manage to tune it out or sleep through it, our subconscious is aware of it. Noise can have a litany of effects on our health. It raises blood pressure and heart rate and causes hormonal shifts that can result in anxiety, stress, nausea, headaches, mood swings, and more. Noise has been associated with cardiovascular disease, tinnitus, irritability, depression, and insomnia.
Noise leaves a trail of destruction in its wake. Unfortunately, noise is an inevitable part of modern life, and it’s unrealistic to think that we can do away with it entirely; we can, however, take steps to mitigate our exposure to noise. Organizations such as Noise Free America, NoiseOFF, and the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse are working to educate consumers and legislators about the effects of noise. Some communities have gone so far as to pass noise ordinances. If you feel you are being exposed to excessive noise in your community, these organizations provide a number of resources for taking action. In the meantime there are numerous ways you can reduce your noise exposure:
Use noise preventive strategies in your home, such as double-pane windows and carpeting. Disable the sounds you can live without, from the buzz of the dryer to the car-locking mechanism on your car and even the “ding” of your e-mail and text message alerts. Shop for quiet appliances.
Technology has come a long way, and many appliances such as refrigerators and dishwashers now offer low-decibel ratings. Choose muscle power when possible. Use a push lawnmower and a rake in lieu of a gas-powered lawnmower and a leaf blower. Carry earplugs in your purse so you have them when you need them. Take quiet time in wilderness areas to recharge. Consider a camping vacation over Disneyland and relish in the sound of silence. Practice relaxation techniques to offset the anxiety caused by noise in your environment.