Bronzaft, A. Impact of Noise on Health: The Divide Between Policy & Science

Bronzaft, A.L. (2017) Impact of Noise on Health: The Divide between Policy and Science. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 5, 108-120.

May 12, 2017


In her chapter “Sources of Noise” in Noise and Health, Annette Zaner [1] writes that sounds have been environmental pollutants for thousands of years, citing examples of stories of loud music in the Old Testament and noisy delivery wagons in ancient times. The Industrial Revolution and urbanization in more recent times raised the decibel levels in our communities, especially with the growth in transportation on the roads, on the rails and in the air, as well as the growth of noise polluting products. The proliferation of boom cars, cell phones and wind turbines during the past twenty years has made our world even noisier. Studies have been carried out that have demonstrated the potential impact of these noises on our mental and physical health, and there have been some efforts to lessen some of the intrusive sounds, e.g. aircraft and road traffic noise, but there is still too little attention paid to the deleterious effects of noise. While noise complaints top the list of complaints in major cities worldwide and noise even threatens the natural sound systems of our planet, there is no movement globally to address the noise pollutant. The following paper will examine the research linking noise to health effects, question why governments have not seriously attempted to lower noise levels and suggest ways to lessen the din. Doing so will not only be beneficial to our health and well-being but it would also be wise economically.


Noise has been defined as an unwanted, uncontrollable and unpredictable sound that disturbs and annoys an individual. With this definition, there has been a tendency to view noise as an annoyance and, secondly, as a sound that is deemed annoying to an individual on a personal level. Thus, it has been said that oneperson’s music is another person’s noise. Viewing noise as personal to the listener and as simply annoying has resulted in ignoring the potential harm of this pollutant. However, a growing body of research has sufficiently demonstrated that noise is more than annoying—it is a mental and physical health hazard. Furthermore, while there may be some people who are less impacted by intrusive sounds and some who are very much disturbed by surrounding sounds, we find that the larger number of people in the middle range of the normal curve is indeed affected by transportation noises, construction noises, community noises, and neighbor noises. This paper will identify the research linking noise to adverse health impacts and, hopefully, it will persuade readers to reach out to their public officials to introduce policies to lessen the surrounding noises for the sake of the well-being of all people.

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