With Earth Day approaching, so many of us focus on the physical environment — and rightly so. What we forget sometimes, though, is that itís not just the air, water and soil that suffer the effects of pollution. Equally damaging in our day-to-day lives is the excess of noise that infiltrates our peace of mind and overwhelms our auditory systems.
As a musician and a dog lover, I canít imagine my life without the sounds that fill my days. The music that intertwines me with my piano. My dog Gina grunting with happiness as we play with her pull toy. Even Sanchez growling possessively over the one item he cherishes above all else — his kong.
But when sound becomes noise and it escalates to levels well above what is healthy for our ears or our well being, it becomes noise pollution.
I work with sound researcher Joshua Leeds on creating music for dogs, and I’ve also learned a great deal from him on how humans perceive sound. Joshua says, “We take in sound through our ears, where it is then changed into electro-chemical impulses that are sent to the brain. Interestingly, we also perceive it through our skin.” That is why Evelyn Glennie, an exquisite percussionist who is deaf, performs barefoot. She says her hearing loss actually improves her musical ability, rather than it being a detriment.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB). To understand this measurement, let us take the simple conversation between two people into account. According to Noise Pollution Facts: A Dummy’s Guide, if they are talking in relaxed tones, the sound is close to 60 decibels; if they whisper, the sound measures barely 30dB. If, however, the people start shouting at each other, the decibel level increases a magnitude of 100 times, up to 80 dB.
Next: What Noise Levels Cause Harm to the Human Ear?
Noises that approach 85 dB can cause harm to the human ear, particularly when they are continuous, and the loudest noise a person can handle without pain is about 120 dB. Prolonged exposure to noise at this high level can cause damage to the eardrum.
Care2 readers might be surprised at the noise we are exposed to in our everyday lives that rise to that decibel level.
The maximum noise that each person is able to endure is close to 120 dB, beyond which the personís ears begin to ache. However, this does not mean that noise has to reach such intensity to cause harm. Noise of even close to 85 dB can be harmful to the ears, a fact only made stronger and worse when the sound is continuous. When sound of this intensity affects the ears for a prolonged period of time, it can damage the eardrum.
NoiseHelp.com gives examples of sources of loud noises that can cause hearing loss are motorcycles, firecrackers and small arms fire, all emitting sounds from 120 decibels to 140 decibels. Other times we might be exposed to loud noises in our environment are when we hear an emergency vehicle siren (115 dB), jet plane takeoff (140 dB), or at a rock concert (110 dB).
According to the Occupational and Safety Health Administration, exposure to loud noises is the second most common cause of hearing loss and often we are exposed to second-hand noise over which we have little control: leaf blowers, lawn mowers, airplanes, construction equipment. But we can control what we expose our neighbors to, and by doing so, maybe we can lower the decibel levels in our communities. Better yet, maybe we can spare someone else his or her hearing loss or an earache, or maybe just make it a little easier for somebody to focus on any given day.
So, on Earth Day, when you are removing the litter from your neighborhood park or playground, or shoveling compost at the dump, or planning how to reduce your carbon footprint in the world, stop and think about this question also: What can you do to reduce noise pollution?
I vow to use a hand sanitizer rather than the loud air blowing machines often found in public bathrooms, which ironically have replaced the use of paper hand towels that harm the planet.
How about you? Thanks for sharing your thoughts in a comment below.
Have you tried Sound Therapy for your dogs? Through a Dogís Ear is the first music clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system.