By Arline Bronzaft, Ph.D
In celebration of the 24th International Noise Awareness Day (4/24/19), the Center for Hearing and Communication welcomes guest blogger Arline Bronzaft, renowned expert on noise and its impact on health.
Effects of noise on health
The growing number of studies linking noise to hearing loss and other adverse physical and mental health effects no longer permits anyone to label noise as simply “an annoyance.” Consider this partial list of health and quality-of-life issues stemming from noise exposure:
- impaired hearing has for many years been associated with loud sounds and noise;
- continuous exposure to airplane noise has resulted in increased risk of cardiovascular disorders in residents living near airports;
- lower reading scores have been identified in children attending schools exposed to traffic noises;
- and people with homes and backyards intruded upon by overhead jets have a diminished quality of life.
In Impact of Noise on Health: The Divide between Policy and Science, an article I published in 2017 in the Open Journal of Social Sciences, I noted that the knowledge we have about the deleterious effects of noise on health has not resulted in appropriate policies to abate noise at the federal level – despite having passed a Noise Control Act in 1972 and having had, at one time, an office devoted to noise abatement in the Environmental Protection Agency. Former President Ronald Reagan essentially de-funded this office and the following presidents have similarly paid little, if any, attention to noise pollution. The task for reducing environmental noises in the United States has been essentially left to its cities and states.
Making strides in NYC
New York City has long been involved in trying to curb noise pollution. In 1970 the city passed a comprehensive noise code which was updated in 2007. Thus, an urban center, which has been identified with noises coming from its subway system, its many highways, its numerous construction sites and the interactions of millions of people as they navigate its streets and set up residences in crowded apartments, has long been involved in ways to lower the din. Additionally, through a concern for its parks, New York City has attempted to provide its residents with the requisite quiet they need to cope with their many noisy encounters.
Advocating in your community
International Noise Awareness Day, started in 1996 by the Center for Hearing and Communication, is the day individuals are asked to take note of the dangers of noise to their hearing and overall mental and physical well-being and to pledge to engage in activities that will lead to a reduction in environmental noises. I suggest people also pledge to advocate for more quiet places in their communities. My children’s book Listen to the Raindrops (illustrated by Steven Parton) is an attempt to educate children about the beauty of the good sounds and the dangers of noise. It ends as follows: “Mom, dads, girls and boys join together to stop the noise. So that we can one and all forever hear the raindrops fall.”
Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D. is a Professor Emerita of Lehman College, City University of New York, and an expert on the impacts of noise. Dr. Bronzaft conducts research, writes and lectures on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health. She has written broadly on noise, including Why Noise Matters (2011) of which she is a co-author, chapters in environmental books and encyclopedias, published articles in academic journals and has writings in the popular press.