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Effects of Noise
Human Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that there is 'overwhelming' evidence that noise pollution has a negative effect on human health.

Chronic noise causes reduced enjoyment of life, tinnitus, sleep disturbances, impaired cognitive performance, stress, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and shortened life span.

Clinical and experimental studies have shown that noise directly causes responses in the endocrine and cardiovascular system.

Residents of our islands may now become exposed to health risks similar to Secondhand Smoking.

IMAGE BELOW:  Spectrogram of noise pollution by an anchored freighter, measured from Salt Spring Island (Frequency to the left, Logarithmic scale).  The intensely bright yellow zone below 200Hz reveals the presence of harmful low frequency noises.      

Noise pollution
can be damaging to health
even if we do not hear the sounds.

The above mentioned health problems are usually caused by the body responding to signals from the ear.

So am I safe if I am further away and do not hear the sounds?  Or if I am hard of hearing, or if I use ear plugs?

Not necessarily.

Chronic noise pollution can be in a frequency below your hearing. Low frequencies also have a second way of affecting health, by penetrating your body directly without going through your ears.

Sounds at the low end of the frequency spectrum can be particularly damaging because they travel further distances from the source, and they vibrate in waves that are more likely to directly interfere with cell and organ functions.

Sounds are usually considered low frequency below about 250Hz. Infrasound is below the lower human threshold of hearing at 20Hz.

The symptoms of chronic exposure to very low frequency noises are somewhat different and appear to be linked more to headaches, problems in child development, and cancer. 

See Next: Air Pollution


A multitude of studies and reviews have revealed the effects of Noise Pollution on human health.  For illustration, a few are listed below:

The impact of low-frequency noise on human mental performance. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2005;18(2):185-98.

Infrasound and low-frequency noise – does it affect human health?  Engineers Journal, 2018/0123.

Environmental Noise and the Cardiovascular System. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2018; 71(6): 688–697.

Burden of disease from environmental noise - Quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe. WHO Regional Office, Europe.

Stress Hormone Changes in Persons exposed to Simulated Night Noise. Noise & Health: 5 (17). 

Noise and Health - Effects of Low Frequency Noise and Vibrations: Environmental and Occupational Perspectives. Encyclopedia of Environmental Health, pp.240-253.     

See Next:
 Air Pollution

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