Feeling noise sick? You’re not alone.

If you feel like the noise of daily life is making you grouchy, that’s because it probably is. Even worse, there’s a real chance it’s making you sick.

Loud lives bring serious health implications. 
How noisy is your life? And how well do you deal with it? A recent ‘Coping with Noise’ survey completed by 8,800 people living in 47 big cities across 11 countries revealed that collectively we’re not coping very well at all. The study found on average 28% of participants were exposed to medium-to-high levels of noise every day. And shockingly, of those living in loud surrounds, nearly one third experience negative moods and are more susceptible to several diseases as a consequence.

The noisiness of life varies person to person, city to city, country to country, but in general terms, noisier lives lead to increased negative impacts. Implications of noise exposure can range from irritability, nervousness and mood swings to insomnia, headaches and problems concentrating. The study revealed people living in noisier environments are almost twice as likely to suffer these effects. But it also demonstrated some surprising truths about how well (or not) various populations cope – a noisy existence need not necessarily spell doom and gloom.

The geography of noise sickness.
The USA ranked as the most noise-affected population (a whopping 40% in the medium–high range), while Germany picked up the prize for most serene, with only 14% of participants reporting at that level. Italians recorded by far the highest levels of noise-related mood factors (41%), while the USA, UK and Italy reported the highest levels of noise-related illness, like sleep disorders and headaches. Interestingly, many of the European countries exposed to average global noise levels (UK, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and France) reported above-average negative effects.

The good news is, at least for us, while Australia and New Zealand ranked in the top three populations in terms of noise exposure, our negative mood and illness rates landed at the lower end of the spectrum. In fact, despite the Kiwis finishing second only to the USA in noisiness, their noise-related negative mood rates were the lowest, and illness rates well below average. And in Australia, we recorded on or below average across both negative measures, even though we’re exposed to above-average noise. Could it be that our wide open spaces allow antipodeans to cope a little better than most?

So, what’s your noise trigger?
Ever bothered by the faint buzz of a fluorescent light? The bark of your neighbour’s dog? Maybe it takes a bit more, like roar of truck engine brakes on a nearby road. Whatever your limit, if excess noise is causing you distress, even the smallest actions can have profoundly positive effects. Try noise-cancelling earbuds for a quiet time-out. Reposition your workspace or bed to a quieter part of the house. Practise mindfulness or meditation, or visit a parkland for a tranquil escape. And if all else fails, and that New Zealand holiday is out of reach, you can always try closing your eyes and dreaming of a German hillside.

For more information regarding noise sickness, please contact your local clinic.

NHC blog is our place to explore ideas and themes of interest. For professional audiology advice, please contact your local clinic for a consultation.