Around the world, humans are drawn to the urban environment to live and to work. However, what we might not notice is that we are increasingly exposed to unhealthy levels and volumes of background noise.
The soundscape of cities around the globe is referred to as environmental noise. This includes sound created by traffic, public transport, flight paths and people talking, which all merge to create a cacophony of sound. The World Health Organisation (WHO) conducted research that deduced healthy noise levels should not exceed 55 decibels during the day and 40 at night.
WHO advises that urban noise poses an underestimated risk to our collective wellbeing, causing a number of short and long-term health problems such as hearing impairment, insomnia, mood swings and impacts on cardiovascular function.
It is worthwhile becoming aware of sounds that can have a detrimental impact on our health. Amplifon Group, the parent company to National Hearing Care, conducted market research, surveying 88,000 people in 47 cities across 11 countries, which provided some valuable insights into the lifestyle choices we make and the level of noise we are exposed to as a result. Being aware of noise levels can help us make informed lifestyle choices when navigating our exposure to excessive sound. Here’s an insight from the experts.
Road traffic, conversation and background music are the most frequent sources of noise in big cities across the world.
In Australia, our neighbours create the most noise. While for our New Zealand cousins, conversations among people is the sound that is reverberating through its cities. Across the 11 countries addressed in the study, the top six contributors of noise are:
Portugal, Italy, Germany and the United States are all better informed about the risks related to excessive noise exposure, however, awareness does not necessarily alter people’s behaviour.
The study also looked at the impact various noises have on our health, ranging from hearing loss to stress and sleeping disorders, to name just a few. Eating at restaurants was the noisiest activity, with hearing loss and stress the most common health concerns. Portugal is the loudest place to eat out, followed by Italy and then Germany. Australia ranked 8th and New Zealand came in 9th position.
Concerts were the second biggest noise generators, with resultant hearing loss, stress and irritability all on equal footing in regards to the health implications of excessive noise. Australia was the exception in this regard, we prefer to stay in and watch TV while pumping up the surround sound, which can lead to other issues such as sleep disorders.
Almost one third of the population from 11 countries state they are exposed to high and medium-high levels of noise. These levels of noise exposure almost double the rates of irritability, mood swings, nervousness and worry in people. Likewise, increased noise exposure is associated with an almost doubled rate of reported insomnia and sleep disorders, concentration problems and headaches. Excessive sound levels do create a real ‘noise sickness’.
The six top cities with the highest health issues relating to noise are ranked as follows:
It is interesting to see Australia and New Zealand ranking so highly in terms of health issues relating to high noise exposure. The evidence presents a good reason to look after your hearing health and have regular hearing checks especially if you are aged 50+.
Do take the time to seek out peace and quiet, it’s good for you.
If you are yet to have your hearing checked, book in a free hearing test to help you on your way. If you’re already a client, why not introduce us to one of your friends or loved ones?
* Source Survey “Coping with Noise” conducted by GfK Euriska and promoted by Amplifon, among 8800 people from 47 big cities in 11 countries (Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom and United States)