Why is there noise

Effects of noise on people

Main content
Noise is the sound that affects the physical, emotional and social well-being of people. The perception of noise is subjective and very different from person to person, and noise exposure can have a wide range of physical and psychological effects. When it comes to the effects of noise, a distinction is made between effects on hearing and effects on the entire organism.

Decisive for the risk of health consequences from the effects of noise are:

  • Sound pressure level
  • Duration and frequency of exposure
  • Frequency composition

Effect on hearing:
The effects of sound only cause direct physical damage at very high levels (e.g. impact trauma or acute hearing damage). This happens at levels that are above the ear's pain threshold, i.e. above 130 dB (A). In such cases, one speaks of aural noise, i.e. noise that affects the hearing directly. The aural effects also include chronic exposure to levels above 85 dB (A), which can cause noise-induced hearing loss over long periods of time. The higher the noise level, the shorter the time until such chronic hearing damage can occur.

Effects on the whole organism:
Even less loud noises can impair wellbeing and even lead to illness. While the person concerned feels the annoyance directly, the health consequences of the noise can often not be directly attributed. Everyone reacts differently to chronic noise exposure. The health effects are also dependent on the subjective perception of noise. For example, noise has a much stronger effect during sleep, relaxation and communication with the same intensity than during physical work. Such effects on the organism are also referred to as extra-aural effects.

Health risks from chronic noise pollution

  • Noise-induced hearing loss during prolonged exposure to levels above 85 dB (A),
  • reduced ability to concentrate and reduced quality of sleep,
  • Stress, as noise acts as a stress factor on the human organism, regardless of whether the person is sleeping or waking (with a negative basic attitude to the acting noise, the stress load increases due to the subjectively perceived anger),
  • accelerated aging of the cardiovascular system due to chronic noise exposure,
  • increased risk of myocardial infarction with chronic exposure above 65 dB (A),
  • increased risk of developing depression.

With all of the above negative effects on health, the higher the noise level, the greater the risk of illness. The chronic effects on the organism usually take place via stress reactions occurring in the body, which cannot be avoided even during sleep. Therefore, a positive or neutral inner attitude towards the source of the noise cannot completely avoid the negative effects, but can certainly reduce them.

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