Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Ridding the world of excessive noise isn’t an easy task, but it’s one Noise Free America: a Coalition to Promote Quiet is willing to tackle. Their mission is to raise awareness of the negative effects of noise pollution in order to reduce noise in our communities.
Ted Rueter founded Noise Free America in 2001, when he was a professor at UCLA and living in Los Angeles. Today the organization has more than 50 local chapters in 25 states, each with the mission of educating the public about noise pollution.
Why does noise pollution matter?
Excessive noise causes hearing loss and negatively impacts health. Organizations such as the World Health Organization, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and U.S. Census Bureau have identified noise pollution as a real and present danger to human health and well being. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), as many as 26 million Americans have high frequency hearing loss likely caused by exposure to excessive noise.
In addition to hearing loss, excessive noise is linked to tinnitus, sleep deprivation, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of mental illness. A recent scientific literature review published in European Cardiology Review concluded there is a connection between exposure to everyday transportation noise and high blood pressure. Further, it determined that noise pollution should be considered as a new risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A German study published in 2016 found depression and anxiety increased as annoyance from noise increased.
Noise Free America believes the answer to this problem is for each state to adopt a comprehensive noise code which regulates the decibel (dB) levels on everything from noisy cars and lawn equipment to barking dogs, construction, trash removal and recreational vehicles. Their legislative agenda is outlined on the website.
Do your part
The effort to reduce noise pollution begins in local communities with residents who are committed to resolving the problem. Here’s how you can help:
- Take action. Sign up to receive Noise Free America’s updates and alerts on fighting noise pollution. Volunteer to help with lobbying, research, fund raising or community outreach. Write your local, state and national representatives and ask them to support legislation for anti-noise ordinances. Join a local affiliate of Noise Free America or form one of your own. Donate to the cause. Information on all of these options is available on Noise Free America’s website.
- Get educated. Download Noise Free America’s How To Fight Noise manual. The 67-page document identifies what noise pollution is and how it’s harmful to your health as well as provides information on how to start a local chapter, tips on how to fight noise in your community, quiet alternatives to common noise-making products you can use in your own home and suggestions on wording for petitions and letters to elected officials.
- Be a good neighbor. Be mindful of the amount of noise your household contributes to neighborhood pollution. Monitor your use of outdoor lawn equipment and consider using quieter alternatives whenever possible. Talk to your family about acceptable times to play with loud toys or recreational vehicles to respect your neighbors’ peace and quiet. Work with your dogs to control excessive barking, if necessary.
- Protect yourself and your family. Noise induced hearing loss is permanent; however, it’s also the most preventable type of hearing loss. Wear earplugs or headphones when you know you’ll be in noisy environments such as sport stadiums or music concerts. Reduce the volume on your personal electronic devices, televisions and car radios. Most importantly, make hearing health a priority. Find a hearing healthcare professional near you with whom you can develop a trusted relationship. Schedule hearing evaluations for the whole family and follow recommended treatment. When you model good hearing health habits, others notice. The example you set may be the catalyst for positive change in the fight against noise pollution in your community.