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While many of us love the sounds of the city, too much noise can be distracting and annoying. Trucks, airplanes, sirens, leaf blowers and landscaping can stress us out. Generally, road, aircraft and industrial activities are the biggest culprits of noise, but construction, air conditioners, music, and all sorts of other things can also contribute.
However, noise pollution is more than just an annoyance. At high levels, or over time (even if we sleep through it), noise can be legitimately bad for our health. Too much noise can increase blood pressure and can affect learning, memory, speech and hearing. Disruption of sleep alone can affect memory, concentration, moods and immune system responses. Animals are also affected—noise pollution can disrupt communication and migration patterns.
Cities most commonly combat noise pollution through ordinances, which vary from place to place. Sound barriers and well-placed parks and trees can help, as well. Communicating with elected officials is important for making sure these protections are in place where they’re needed in your neighborhood.
As a community, we can pitch in by doing our landscaping, mowing and leaf blowing at midday. Better yet, we can use hand-powered lawn mowers and rakes, burning calories while doing so. Communicating with neighbors is a good way to work around landscaping and loud parties. We can also cut down on our own car’s noise by driving a hybrid, or walking or biking. Individually, we can also use earplugs to protect our ears around unavoidable construction or traffic noise.
In all, it’s important that we all be aware of the adverse health effects of noise pollution, as well as the solutions for limiting it, so we can protect each other and ourselves.
Happily, hand-powered gardening, walking, biking, parks and trees all help to soften the urban din and protect our health. Combating noise pollution is an environmental and public health win-win.