International Noise Awareness Day – 100 years of amplified music

London_siezed_equipmentToday is International Noise Awareness Day – an event conceived 19 years ago, to combat the impact of noise on hearing and health. The evidence for the impact of noise on health continues to accumulate – not just on hearing but on other aspects of our health and well being.

Hearing damage is the most noticeable impact of noise on health, and our increasing ability to create and expose ourselves to loud noise – and exposure to loud music is a common cause of this – many musicians suffer hearing damage whether they play classical or pop music.

It is now very rare to find anyone who has not exposed themselves to loud music – either by attending concerts, clubs and festivals or listening to loud sound on headphones. Health specialists are concerned that we are storing up problems for the future by unwittingly damaging our hearing, – we have had amplified music for 100 years now and as technology improves it gets louder, and a generation is growing up attached to headphones.

Equally, evidence of the cost of noise to society of long term exposure to transport noise is growing. Environmental (transport) noise alone is estimated to cost UK society £7-10 billion. Noise from transport also has health impacts – contributing to heart conditions, high blood pressure and sleep disturbance and disrupting children’s learning ability.

Neighbour noise disturbance is the most common source of complaints to councils – and while the health effect of persistent noise disturbance at home has not been quantified – many of us have experienced annoyance, sleep disturbance and impact on our quality of life at home caused by ill timed DIY or late night partying.

And its not just our health that is affected by noise. An increasing body of research is documenting the impact of human generated noise on wildlife. Birds sing louder in cities to be heard or, just like people, move away from noise. This is just one example of our sounds disrupting  natural soundscapes – the multiple sounds living things other than us use to signal and communicate to each other.

However, in some areas the value of quiet space outdoors is now actively recognised. Wales have designated 63 protected quiet areas   in parks, and many local parks around the UK have tranquil areas used by people to relax.

So, to mark International Noise Awareness Day, take some quiet time to consider how noise is affecting your hearing health. You can even participate in research examining the impact of loud music on our hearing after a century of amplified music.

You can also consider what can be done during Noise Action Week  in your neighbourhood to help us work towards a healthier noise environment for all. What noises cause annoyance, disturbance and potential health and hearing damage?  If you are a  local council noise team, mediation service, housing provider, community group or acoustician – what can you do to raise awareness of noise. If you are an individual concerned about noise – ask your local services what they are doing during NAW.

Find out more about how you can reduce noise here: http://www.noiseactionweek.org.uk/about/reducing-noise-in-the-home

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