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Noise Kills – New WHO Data Quantifies the Risks

Posted on: July 10, 2012

Noise is stressful and can damage your health – particularly if you show up at 3am to an all-night party asking them to turn the noise down… New evidence collected by the World Health Organisation indicates that c 3% of deaths from heart disease is attributable to long term exposure to environmental noise – mainly nighttime noise exposure, with 2% of the population suffering from severe sleep disturbance, 15% from serious annoyance and with additional significant effects on the learning abilities of children. As noise complaints in the UK have increased by a factor of 5 over 20 years, this indicates that the problem of LOUD NOISE is rapidly getting worse.

Now for the figures: the threshold for cardiovascular problems is c50dB(A), with sleep disturbance at 42dB(A) and annoyance at 35dB(A) (all at night). 55dB(A) day or night has a negative effect on the learning ability of children (a 25% drop in long-term memory recall of children has been directly linked to the noise from a nearby airport). However: as these figures are all in dB(A) and a significant proportion of sleep disturbance cases involve low frequency noise that does not contribute significantly to the dB(A) value (think of bass beat, fan tones, transformers, combustion noise, distant diesel boom..), they must under-estimate of the scale of the problem.

We were designed a few million years ago to have ears that stay awake at night and with a brain and body that react to sounds. This ability has obvious evolutionary advantages – a rapid change from a potential puma buffet into a fully leapt-up and running away type creature at the merest hint of claws on stone was a good thing for a small ape. Nowadays, however, noise can cause the associated stress hormones to circulate constantly which can cause long-term physiological damage leading to heart failure, strokes, high blood pressure and immunity issues.

And that’s not counting the apoplexy brought on by the neighbours doing …. just about anything that you do, but obviously without the same consideration for others.

Apart from the dog, which should be put-down…