The Healing Benefits of a Quiet Environment

May 3rd, 2012

By: Robert Earle Howells

  If you live in a fairly tranquil suburban neighborhood, on a typical day this is what you will hear: leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, lawn mowers, car alarms, reverse-gear alarms, a neighbors television, a barking dog, numerous busses, booming home and car stereos, a steady procession of jet airplanes and various levels of conversations and arguments from those around you.

  Noise pollution is a “modern plague”, declared Louis Hagler, MD, and Lisa Goines in a 2007 Southern Medical Journal paper that summarized different scientific studies on the affects of noise and how it affects our health.

 Noise does not need to be loud to do damage. “Even ear safe sound levels can cause non auditory health affects”, according to Wolfgang Babisch, PhD, a scientist with the German Environmental Agency. Noise can affect sleep, fetal development and the psyche. Studies have shown that school children exposed to high levels of aircraft noise suffer impairment in reading and memory. Elderly people and those with depression are particularly sensitive to noise pollution.

 We process noise subconsciously as a danger signal that triggers a fight or flight response in our sympathetic nervous system. Even if we manage to tune it out or sleep through it, noise works insidiously, raising our blood pressure and heart rate, and causing hormonal changes with potentially far reaching consequences, including anxiety, stress, nervousness, nausea, headache, sexual impotence and mood swings.

 Environmental noise has also been linked to tinnitus, a chronic ringing in the ears that can lead to insomnia, irritability and depression. Noise has also been associated with a small increase in cardiovascular disease. The WHO estimates that in Western Europe, at least a million healthy life years are lost annually due to traffic related noise alone.

 Next week we will give you some suggestions about how to reduce the effects of noise pollution in your environment.

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