Expert Advice

How do I protect myself from noise pollution?

From roaring leaf blowers to soaring planes, too much noise lowers our quality of life and robs us of opportunities for tranquility. Here’s how to silence your surroundings to better your body and soul.

How do I protect myself from noise pollution?
Pin it Matte Stephens

Noise hurts The word “noise” is derived from the Latin word nausea, and as its derivation suggests, noise can cause a number of health problems. Exposure to the loud sounds of city traffic, jet planes and construction equipment can lead to stress, high blood pressure, sleep loss and even low productivity.

How loud is too loud? Decibels are one common measure of noise—a soft whisper is 30 decibels, normal conversation is about 60. This doesn’t mean a conversation is twice as loud as a whisper. In fact, every 10-decibel increase is perceived as a doubling of loudness. Constant or repeated exposure to any noise that is 80 decibels or higher—about the equivalent of a gas-powered lawn mower in close range—can lead Natural Healing to hearing loss over time. (Noiseinduced hearing loss is caused by damage to the small sensory receptors located in the inner ear, called hair cells.) Many sources of noise exceed this recommended limit: A chain saw is 110 decibels and noise in a nightclub can be that loud, too.

Get away from the din Wear earplugs or earmuffs when you are engaged in any activity as loud as or louder than mowing a lawn and limit your exposure to raucous events like rock concerts to four or fewer times a year. While most of our daily din is the result of technology (think how unusually quiet it becomes during a power outage), technology can also be a solution. Opt for electric lawn equipment, which is typically half as loud as the gas-powered type. Invest in quiet air conditioners, dishwashers, dryers and washers. Electric and hybrid cars also significantly quiet the soundscape.

Soundproof your space Before you buy or rent a home in a loud, urban environment, find out what kind of noise-proofing work has been done. Noise-abatement companies can soundproof your windows, walls and ceilings with laminated glass or special Sheetrock or insulation for walls. Also, be aware of local regulations. Get in touch with your city government and find out what rules about noise and excessive clamor are on the books in your community. — Les Bloomberg, executive director of the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse in Montpelier, Vt.