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How Does Noise Affect your Life?

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How Does Noise Affect your Life?

With Earth Day approaching, so many of us focus on the physical environment — and rightly so. What we forget sometimes, though, is that it’s 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 can’t 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?

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Lisa Spector

Lisa Spector is a concert pianist, Juilliard graduate, and canine music expert. She is co-founder of Through a Dog's Ear, the first music clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system. Their new high-tech pet gadget, iCalmDog, is the portable solution to canine anxiety. Lisa shares her home and her heart with her two "career change" Labrador Retrievers from Guide Dogs for the Blind, Sanchez and Gina. Follow Lisa's blog here.

91 comments

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6:28PM PDT on Apr 13, 2013

Thank you for the article, it's one of the things I've been thinking about and working with in my art work--noise and sound. I lost much of my hearing in my 30's, I'm not sure from what---probably a combination of things. Loud noise being only one factor. I've been trying to bring myself back to "sound" being okay to hear. There is an excellent book "The Power of Music" by Elena Mannes which I highly recommend. We probably don't realize how important sound is to us.....I certainly do having lost my hearing.

8:21AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

I miss the quiet of the hobby farm-having spent 13 years there. Of course the roosters had other ideas, lol but they were not too bad and the whippoorwills calling at night along with thousands of spring peepers and several coyotes was pleasant as well--except on occasion to the sheep populace.

Today the neighbour living below blasts her radio and wakes people up at the apartment building because she is too selfish to either use earphones or turn in down so that only she can listen to it.

Thankfully the surrounding neighbourhood is relatively quite with the exception of a few yipping dogs left outside without human companionship for eons-why such people have dogs is beyond me as dogs love to be with their pack and not on their own.

3:33AM PDT on May 5, 2012

When I saw the title of this article How Does Noise Affect your Life? I relaxed - thinking how happy I am to have fellow beings who feel the same way as what I do.
Actually, I notice that there are many people where I live (busy road in a small town) who do not seem to hear the noise. They speak loudly, so perhaps they are slightly deaf.

All I know is that I suffer - like Nancy C. and Kris T. my entire wellbeing and health is compromised. My asthma is far worse and my ear-plugs only block some of the noise. Yes, Kris T. I have also become a night person to enable me to experience less stress.

I often tell people that I've travelled to 26 countries and spent time over-nighting in many large cities, but never have I experienced the level of noise I live with in this small town. The majority of its vehicles are loud and large, the buses sound like 3 aircraft taking off and we have the noisiest train with alarmingly loud whistles that echo in this valley for minutes a few times a night. The quad bikes, etc. scream through the forested areas, but fortunately, that is further away.... they just disturb people who are wealthier and moved to the quieter area to enjoy the peace of nature. They are invaded !

There is no doubt that noise causes stress to our bodies. The yobbos driving noisy vehicles don't care - 'cos they live by the standards of the Wild West! Fortunately, there is a core of really nice people and who are environmentally concerned cit

3:37PM PDT on Apr 28, 2012

Excellent article Lisa, thank you for all your research on this. I am very affected by sound and often observe my poor elderly mother jumping from loud sounds when I take her out in public. Every person has their own level to sound sensitivity and for those who are ultra sensitive just being out in public can be such a jarring experience. I wonder is some of the people we label as introverts might just be extremely sound sensitive?

1:57AM PDT on Apr 28, 2012

Thanks for the article, a really interesting

11:45PM PDT on Apr 27, 2012

I hate noise and there is sooooo much of it in my nieghborhood; The inconsiderate neighbor right next door 10 feet away with his loud truck, the train switchyard three blocks away constantly blaring its horn and clanging cars and the engine noise, the highway and street noise, the loud mortorcycles, vehicles with loud mufflers or stereos, the papermill blowing off steam, the general neighbor noise and all the things they do like the deconstruction of the hosue accross the road, cutting, sawing, pounding, grinding, lawnmowers, people working on motors and engines next door or anywhere else in the neighblrhood, people just talking in many different places or kids playing, airplanes flying over, thunder, dogs barking, the band playing at the park a block away or the ball games there, the furnace or air conditioner running, the fan on the computer, the satelite receiver turning on and off updating and running, the clock ticking away, the refrigerator running, the bathroom fan, haidryer, etc. It's very noisy here and I hate it!

I keep calling the cops and there has been some improvement from the mortorcycles but that's about it and now all my neighbors are mad at me because I want them all to just shut up! they don't think. Period. They have to sense of common courtesy and think I'm just being bitchy. I'm sorry but I would like to just once be able to open my windows for one whole day and not have to listen to all the noise. I think that's why I've become a night person o

6:24PM PDT on Apr 27, 2012

I hate haate hate the ghetto speakers!!!!!!!!Boom Boom Boom all day makes me wanna shoot somebody!!!!!!!

10:15AM PDT on Apr 24, 2012

I live in a semi industrial part of my City. The almost constant noise from outside means I rarely ever hear silence. I hate to open the windows at night because of it. On top of that, I went to a Moody Blues concert when I was a teenager and have suffered from tinnitus ever since. We sat almost right up by the huge speakers and couldn't hear each other speak for a few hours after our ears were ringing so loudly. Back then we didn't know about noise pollution.

7:35AM PDT on Apr 21, 2012

noise affects much more than ears. i am currently living in a rental house on a busy road. the sound of vehicles going 50-60 mph, including huge trucks, is constant. it very often feels like a buzz saw going through my brain, and i feel it in my joints, my sinuses, my skin. my health has deteriorated, and i belileve it has a lot to do with the 24/7 stress of the noise. i'm on a very limited fixed income and don't have a lot of options, but a peaceful environment is at the top of my list. my lease will be up soon, and i believe that once i'm in a better environment i can once again be a reasonably productive person.

4:02PM PDT on Apr 19, 2012

Noise is personal...The music blasting, the dogs barking, the birds chirping. Depends on if you like the music, if it's your dog, etc. However, we should respect others when it comes to our noise.

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