When we think about pollution, we often consider only its more tangible or conventional forms such as atmospheric or water pollution. Those can have detrimental effects on our environment and our standards of living for sure, but there’s another form of pollution that has been becoming a nuisance during this pandemic. As more people transitioned to working from home, they have noticed the presence of unwanted noises which can be distracting and hinder work productivity. Apart from being annoying, noise pollution has been shown to have adverse effects on our mental and physical health, and given its omnipresence, has highlighted the importance of noise-reduction technologies in a wide range of fields.
As mentioned, noise pollution can negatively affect our health in a variety of ways. The most well-known effect is annoyance, and in severe cases, stress and anxiety. Constant exposure to unwanted noise triggers our fight or flight response which causes our adrenal glands to produce more cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone. This makes people irritable and moody, affecting their ability to focus and carry out their daily tasks effectively. In cases where they experience prolonged exposure to cortisol-inducing noise pollution, are more likely to develop serious health complications such as heart attacks and anxiety.
Along with compromising our concentration, making us irritable, and affecting our ability to sleep well, there is a lesser-known effect of noise pollution. According to an experiment done by Jennyy Saffran, a developmental psychologist with the University of Wisconsin Madison, the excessive background noises of urban environments can impair children’s ability to recognise words and learn new ones.
“When noise reaches a certain level, you can no longer perceive important stimuli in your environment, like people talking to you, or your attention is drawn away from these important stimuli by other acoustic signals,” Saffran says.
Other studies have also showed that excessive noise can be linked to increased usage of anxiety medication, higher likelihood of depression, and heart complications like atrial fibrillation. In addition to these less tangible issues, there is also the more tangible effect of reduced hearing when exposed to prolonged, excessively loud noises.
In order to combat the many hazards of noise pollution mentioned before, we have developed some truly innovative ways to reduce noise in our daily lives, in our search for tranquillity. The most common example of these is the use of active noise-cancellation (ANC) technology in headphones. With increasing urbanisation and a related rise in noise levels, headphones with ANC technology are becoming an invaluable accessory to have on hand as we navigate the concrete jungles of the world. Thankfully, with technological advances this feature isn’t limited to high-end audio equipment. Most modern headphones nowadays will have some form of noise-cancelling or reducing technology, but of course, you get what you pay for. An example of unparalleled style and listening pleasure is the recently released Beoplay H95 Berluti Edition wireless headphones, made by Bang & Olufsen in collaboration with Berluti.
One industry where consumers often overlook the importance of noise-reduction is the automotive industry. Oftentimes, we don’t notice the effects of acoustic treatments done to the cabins of our cars, but without them driving probably wouldn’t be quite the enjoyable experience it is. Consider how loud your own car engine can be and then add that to the sounds of other vehicles, road works, and the honking horns of frustrated drivers, and you begin to understand the importance of automotive acoustic treatment. In this regard, Rolls-Royce prides itself on eliminating unwanted noise to create an enjoyable tranquil drive. When creating their acclaimed Ghost line, the marque was apparently so thorough in their soundproofing that they had to pull back on the reins and reduce the treatment as it was affecting situational awareness and safety when driving.
On the home front, we require a quiet environment to rest, relax, and, because of the pandemic, work. But as we mentioned, many people who have begun working from home have noticed just how prevalent noise pollution is. This has resulted in increased interest in DIY fixes such as soft carpets and furniture which dampen sound, and more renovation-savvy solutions like silicone compound sealants, soundproofing tapes, and even acoustic panels like those we see in professional recording studios.
And for those who still aren’t satisfied with the results and can afford to pay a little more, there are the sci-fi-looking sensory deprivation tanks, like the ones at Palm Avenue Float Club, designed to completely isolate users from the outside world, allowing them to experience true peace and tranquillity. Unless they’re claustrophobic of course.
In short, excessive noise pollution is becoming a bigger issue as the world continues to modernise and urbanise. The constant exposure to this cacophony of sound affects us in many ways ranging from, increased stress to actually increasing the likely hood of health complications. And so, being the perfectionists we are, people have come up with a myriad of solutions to reduce our exposure to these noises. Hopefully as we become more advance, there will come a day where we can overcome this sensory overload, and find tranquillity in our lives.